A Toast to the Sweet Wine of Confusion

The Central Coast of California is rife with vineyards. Undulating hillsides, covered with row upon row of grape vines that take advantage of the glorious California sunshine and moderate clime. Late in the summer, the abundance is harvested, crushed, and fermented, producing some amazing wines enjoyed ‘round the world. But an important part of this process occurs in the fog—if it were sunny everyday, the fruit wouldn’t ripen properly—so vineyards are sited where its growers know the sun won’t always shine.

This is a useful analogy for me as I go about re-booting my life. I’m one of those people whose temperament orients way too strongly towards black and white thinking—for me, life’s so much easier if I know where I stand. So I find it particularly upsetting to be confused about who I am, what I want, or my place in the world. I hate the free-fall sensation of not knowing. However, more often than not, re-booting one’s life involves a lot of foggy hollows—places where the destination, let alone the path to it, isn’t so clear. This sort of nebulous confusion or, at least, ill-defined end game exists in stark contrast to what our culture tells us is the key to success and contentment. “Know what you want!” the advice books preach. “Be clear about who you are!”Have a plan and stick to it.” Media outlets highlight “inspiring” stories of 10 year olds who saw a need and led some community effort to achieve their goal. National newspapers hire snotty, recent college grads to write weekly editorial pieces. Titans of industry or renown artists tell us that they’ve been passionate about their occupation since before they could walk.

Really? Wow.

Now, I suppose it’s self-evident that we know about these folks because they are successful and their success comes as a result of their extraordinary commitment and talent to their cause, but, personally, I get a lot more inspiration from the folks who confess to doubts, to having reverse course, to being unsure what they even want to accomplish. In fact, I am inclined to suspect as close-minded anyone who so definitively marks out their position. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that I disdain strongly held views (as a Taurus, I hold many of them), but it puzzles me that so many accolades are given to single-minded knowingness.

While it’s true that those of us who are more scattered in interest or dedication are less likely to get things done, does such diffusion equate with inactivity or lack of success? If your focus is solely on one, clearly delimited set of parameters, aren’t you missing out on a whole host of factors that could impact your end result? Why is being unsure a bad thing? What I am trying to get at is my puzzlement about our cultural bias towards the superiority of strongly held views.

Black and white thinking makes it easy to line up our arguments. This is most clear when we look at our broken political system that rewards the swaggering cowboy zealots on either end. We poor moderates, who can see pluses and minuses on both sides of an issue, are ridiculed and sidelined for our waffling or the acknowledgement that maybe we don’t have all the facts and that this “solution” might be premature or merely address symptoms instead of underlying causes.

So, what does this have to do with re-booting your life and the foggy hollows we can stumble into along the way? It’s important to remind yourself not to panic–you won’t be stuck in the fog forever. Fog forces us to figure out a new way to get around which can lead to discoveries and innovations. And, sometimes, it’s only because of the fog that we learn enough about ourselves to notice factors that we would’ve previously ignored. Grapes ripen in the fog; too much hot, burning sun and all that delicious juice will disappear.

So next time you’re getting down on yourself for bring unsure about where you’re going or what in God’s name you’re even doing—especially in comparison to that mouthy 22 year old with a newspaper column—imagine those fog bound grapes, hugging the vines of the Central Coast of California, ripening into something magical.

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One Response to “A Toast to the Sweet Wine of Confusion”

  1. Kaaren Robertson Says:

    Really good–I love the title and all the ideas. Love, Mom

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