live out the confusions

Posted on August 29th, 2012

This is something I learned only recently. I wish I’d learned it early. It is this: no one on this planet knows what they’re doing. We’re all confused. Very little matches up (and yet our brains try valiantly to slot all the bits together in patterns).

And this is the salient bit: there is only one way through the discombobulation …and that’s through it.

I spent my childhood thinking no one else was confused. Everyone else knew when it was cool to wear two Cherry Lane T-shirts at once. And when to stop. And why to do so in the first place.

Then I realised they were just better at looking like they weren’t confused. Or they varnished everything in a coat of numbness. But that just clogs up the confusion, like bad foundation on toxic skin.

I spent my 20s and most of 30s thinking I could avoid the confusion. I travelled faster, hoping I could overtake it, circumvent it. Beat it.

But as I veer toward 40, I know that the only way is through. You have to live it out. You have to sit and say, “Boy, this is confused and fucked up and…you know what, I just don’t know right now”.

I don’t know. I don’t know what to make of it. I don’t know where I am in it.

And this is OK. And this makes things clear. When you’re in the funk (not outrunning it, skirting it, blinkering it), then you can rise above it. Rise. See. Be OK.

Do ya know what I mean?

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  • Lisa

    Agreed. Part of it stems from the innocuous question posed when we are children “so what do you want to be when you grow up”. Very few people know and when we succumb to that sentiment this mindless quest eats away until we hit middle age and know better. Know how to find a path via intuition rather than a burdensome obligation. In saying this it is healthy to have a goal but realize that it’s not a do or die situation. As always balance gets us there.


  • ekougi

    Ahh, that old familiar feeling of “how come everyone else got a manual for this life except me?”

    I don’t think other people hide their confusion better. I just think some people like to go with the flow, and others over-analyse every moment (me!)


    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah Wilson Reply:



    Sam Reply:

    Yes I agree with that, I’ve been like that all my life but now I’m able to let go of the over analyzing and go with the flow more, it’s been a long arduous process to get here. I think if you tend to be more spiritual and trying to really understand why you’re here, striving to be a better person, etc we tend to be the more complex beings and therefore seem to live a more ‘tortured’ life. I find the spiritual path challenging but I wouldn’t want to be on any other one.


  • Jess @ Sparow + Sea

    Absolutely know what you mean!

    I came across this quote recently, which really smacked of truth for me:

    “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
    – Steven Furtick

    I often find myself thinking that everyone else has it more together than me. Or that everyone’s life looks better than mine on facebook. Or that everyone else seems to know which piece of cutlery to use first and I don’t.

    None of the above is true, everyone is figuring it out as best they can with the tolls that they have at the time. Some just know how to use photo-shop apps better than others…!!!

    Also, I posted about Anais Nin today because I love her. I see your also-posting about The Divine Miss Nin as being a sign from the universe. Of what, I am not sure yet. But she is indeed awesome with her words…


    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    I love that quote Jess… a rippa!


    Celeste Reply:

    That is such a fitting quote to how I am feeling right now! Thanks for sharing, Jess.


    Bridget Reply:

    I just love that quote too – thank you Jess. It’s written down :)


    tanya Reply:

    LOVE this quote.


  • Lissa @ lafcustomdesigns

    Sarah, this post is so perfect in so many ways. I love you graphic with the quote. It is sooo true that we all seem to think everyone else has it all together and we don’t; at leasti know it’s true for me and I find I keep trying to get them to rub some of what they have on me! Occasionally, I get it … That sometimes I really do have it together, but I have to keep reminding myself! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject. ;->


  • thesparechangekitchen

    This post completely resonated with me today. I am so tired of people just not saying it out loud.

    There is this ridiculous avoidance of actually saying sometimes how fucked up it really is and instead reach for the gratitude journal and posting a photo a day on facebook in some sort of delirium that if it looks ok it actually will be and just keep pretending.

    Well, no. Sometimes its really fucked up and I/we really have NO idea what to do next. And I’m ok with that.

    Sometimes its just one step at a time. One foot in front of the other until one day, its ok again. And then maybe the next day its better than ok and sometimes its awesome.

    But without the confusion, and the anxiety and inevitable doubt and lows that it brings, we would never feel the lovely moment of clarity or self assurance that comes when we finally get our groove on.


  • Kerry

    I love how real you are Sarah. I am there with you on this one. For me it is accepting that I am on my journey and reminding myself that I am in the perfect place that I need to be. We never know what is around the corner and where other people are on their path. xo


  • Mia Bluegirl

    How funny, I was having this conversation with my friend just yesterday. (He is not much like you though, he is a giant and is covered in tattoos and rides a Harley.) I’m having some anxiety over something traumatic that happened that I can’t change, and I don’t know how I feel about it or what to do. He advised me to stop thinking so much, and eventually time would heal me without me having to do anything, or my course of action would become more apparent. I like that.

    Also, I like to admit out loud quite often that I have no life plan, no real idea what I am doing, and I’m totally fine with that. It really screws with people, it’s hilarious to watch their faces.


  • alison

    I passed this on to my 15 year old- who thinks that everyone else has worked out how to be fabulous except her…

    thanks for summarising what I’ve been trying to say for the past year… A x


  • Sie

    I *so* know what you mean! There is something so totally freeing about being able to say, “I don’t know.” It unleashes a whole stack of creativity. If we don’t know, if we’re making this up as we go along, then that means the future is free and fluid! That’s scary, but it’s also exhilarating :)

    I like to think that the future that is breaking in on our present (because the way we live now is unsustainable and corrupt and dying and needs to change) will gift us with more belonging and meaning (because we will be forced to be interdependent) and will be a much more conducive space to be able to say, “I don’t know,” without fear of ridicule. Such a collaborative environment (as compared to the current one where we are forced to compete against each other) would foster the freedom to be able to explore those myriad pathways that open up when our creativity is allowed to go walkin’ :)


  • Kez

    I love when you write about stuff like this Sarah! I agree Sarah, over the last year or so there has been tremendous relief in saying I don’t know what the f… I am doing. When I forget to think like this, life gets confusing, when I do it gets kinda simple cos I feel that am in flow with the universe…


  • Em

    THANK YOU!!! This post has really hit home, as have many of the comments. Particularly about the question of ‘what are you going to do when you grown up’? I feel like I’ve chosen paths because it was the ‘right’ thing to do and now getting to the end of training for that path I’m sort of underwhelmed and still not sure where I’m up to. There is a great pressure to ‘get on with things’ at this stage in my career but a little voice in my head just said ‘stop’. And thankfully that little voice has gotten louder and louder (thanks in no small part to your blog and my online community of bloggers and commenters!). Now when people ask me what I’m going to do next year I can say outloud “I’m going to stop actually’. People get really very confused by this. After being conditioned to take on the next stage, the next job etc, getting through the job application period was a bit hard because I kept feeling that I really should apply for a job but I didn’t and so now I can focus on plans for travelling and seeing where life takes me.

    But, I agree, no-one really has it together. I recently read the quote about comparing your behind the scenes with other people’s show reel and it made me laugh because its so true!
    Thanks also for your travel pics – Iceland is on my list for next year now!



    Meg Reply:

    I’m gonna stop next year too… and I have NO IDEA what is next. And I’m stressing about it constantly. Thanks for the reminder that things will work out fine. Watching ‘go back to where you came from’ last night was a kick up the bum too…my life is a bit unplanned and not the way I thought it would be, and I don’t know what’s next, but I DO know I won’t starve and I DO know I live in a safe country, and when I remind myself, I DO know how lucky I am and that the world really is my oyster if I stop worrying and let things be. Thanks Sarah


  • heather

    this is my reasoning…

    Everyone is in the same boat.

    Sometimes when I catch myself comparing, I remember this. Everyone is angsting about something (not necessarily the same thing) but something. It relaxes me and gets me through constant comparisons of how perfect everyone else is doing life compared to me.

    A part of me wishes someone had told me this in my 20’s, teens whatever, but I doubt whether I would have taken the time to absorb it. Maybe.


  • C

    Dear Sarah,
    I can’t wait for your writing to come out as a collection- I really hope that you publish your writing. I think a lot of women my age (mid 20s) would love to read it.
    This year I also had to stop…I had also been running (literally, 10-15km each day) from confusion, fear and a horrible break up. Pretending that I had everything under control when I constantly felt like I didn’t.
    In the end, (not as seriously as yours) my body did make me stop. Exhaustion, stress fractures, stomach troubles.
    A good friend gave me two of Pema Chodron’s books- ‘The places that scare us’ and ‘When things fall apart.’ I’ve been learning how to sit, be still and just accept confusion or fear or hurt. And talking, honestly with friends about feeling this way.
    Turns out- they all do too!
    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts so beautifully, honestly, without glossing over the sticky, tricky bits.
    There’s not a lot of this stuff out there for women- it’s really refreshing and pretty inspirational.
    C :)


    thesparechangekitchen Reply:

    I love that book, When Things Fall Apart. It helped me so much through a difficult period


  • Louise

    Hi Sarah, I love your posts…they are so spot on. My favourite quote of the moment is by Stephanie Dowrick… “Tolerate uncertainty”. I have always thought that when a problem arises that it obviously needs solving, and with gusto. I would turn it around in my head a thousand times searching for the answer, and get so down on myself when I couldn’t find it. Not to mention use up so much of my energy that I became exhausted.
    I now have the above quote written on my fridge. I don’t know the answer…I’m probably not meant to. I need to tolerate the uncertainty and let the answer (if there is one) play out like it’s meant to.
    So freeing.


  • Steph

    “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
    – Steven Furtick

    One of my all time favourite quotes.

    Think less, breathe more, and never give up xx

    Love your work SW.


  • Rachael

    I think everything happens for a reason. Plenty of times in my life I haven’t know what that reason was and for somethings, I don’t think I will ever understand the reason. But thats life, you aren’t always going to have answers and the confusion will carry on.
    Go with the flow I say!


  • issy

    Wow great timing was feeling so down today. i had a plan for myself however my health issues have thrown them out the window. i plan to stop next year and go with the flow. this will be very hard for me because i am a stress head and analyse everything. i go by the quote be nice to people because everyone is fighting their own battles.


  • Kish

    Love your posts Sarah.
    They always make me feel at one with myself – well at least 90%, the remaining 10% is on my shoulders.

    Wanted to ask – do you know who did the illustration with the quote? We work with creatives + love collaborating, would love to work with him / her? Couldn’t find a reference so wasn’t sure if it was you :)



    jay Reply:

    if you click on the a/w it says Lisa Congdon. Lots on etsy. I thought it lovely too


  • Sarah

    Oh absolutely!
    Thank you for writing this, I even had a tingle run down my spine remembering Cherry Lane!
    I found myself nodding my head throughout the whole post.


  • Linda Slater

    Sarah, you are an intuitive, a blender, an introvert. Check out this TED video and you will start to understand.So many people respond to it with relief!! If you want more info, you can go to LA and chase up the authors, or stop off in Perth and go see my mentor who is the only person in Oz that has been trained in this amazing field!


  • Grace

    Oh, all types of agreed. It is so hard to acknowledge that it’s ok to be confused. It doesn’t mean you’re less, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on the wrong track, it just means that life can throw a lot at you and it’s hard to process sometimes. Sometimes you just need to breathe and live through it.

    Gosh, I wish I’d know this about 2 years ago.


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  • Alice

    You have a wonderful ability to post things exactly when I need to hear them. Today this hit home immediately and I’m thinking that maybe it did for so many others because we’re in a confused state more than we like to acknowledge. Thanks for helping us acknowledge, accept and live out today’s confusions.


  • Jane

    As usual your posts resonate with so many Sarah, we are all so lucky to have someone who can feel them too and turn them so eloquently into a writing and share. This year I have had to deal with getting through cancer, and now coming out the other side I am just frustrated at how I cannot make sense of it all, and I am frustrated that I don’t have the energy like I used to in order to get back on my feet. Last night I reminded myself of this quote below, and thought from now on I just have to start living through it, and hopefully my life will get back to the energetic self it used to be, as you say live through the confusion. The timing, as usual, of your words could not have been better, brought me to tears, THANK YOU!

    “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

    ― Rainer Maria Rilke


    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    Rainer Maria Rilke is amazing! I hadn’t heard that particular quote, so thank you for sharing. :)

    Sorry to hear you were unwell, I hope healing comes to you soon. x


  • Sam

    This might be of interest to everyone from Dana Mrkich she wrote recently on her blog and it’s just a snapshot, the link to the rest of her blog post is at the bottom:

    “The energy excavation bulldozers have moved in and they mean business! They are going deep down into the depths of our being to clear out any remaining stubborn, emotional gravel. You may be experiencing this as extreme heaviness, then extreme resistance, extreme anger, extreme irritability, extreme impatience, extreme frustration, extreme oh aha lightbulb moment, extreme giddy joy, extreme happiness, extreme gratitude, extreme higher perspective wisdom, followed by oh no more extreme heaviness etc etc. It’s all happening, and it’s happening in no particular order of one emotion running into the other. All you know is that it’s happening, it’s unpredictable, the jackhammer hasn’t stopped drilling in days (weeks? all year?) and you wish it would shoosh up already!! But bless Jack the jackhammer because he is under special orders from the future You that exists in 2013 and beyond: To You and all you know, it’s All Aboard Ship 2013 – No Baggage Allowed.”

    You can read the rest here:

    Hope it’s helpful.



    Sie Reply:

    I so get this, Sam :)


  • Miss Better Being

    Thanks Sarah for making my incredibly heavy heart a little lighter today.

    Some unavoidable circumstances in my professional life are really beating me up today, and reading that its ok not to get it, and infact most people dont, has left me feeling much better about the fact that I am definitely not getting it and not liking it at work.

    I want to rise above it, so to speak, but I think I know deep down that to do that, I have to make some tough decisions, and confront some fears and risks along the way. It’s good to know I’m not alone in that either.

    Essentially, I just wanted to say thank-you for making it a little easier to get through today with a smile on my face.



  • Sam

    PS – here’s another one from Rebecca Dettman who talks about all the changes going on right now that are affecting us:



  • Kris Cleary

    Yeh I know what you mean.

    Sometimes things happen unexpectedly and it brings much confusion.

    …Then there are other things like birthday surprises which are a good confusion.

    I like this thought:

    ME: Do you like surprises?

    YOU: Yes

    ME: Bulls**t!!! You only like the surprises you WANT. The one’s you don’t want you call PROBLEMS!

    I guess surprise/confusion is going to come all the time. It doesn’t know ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Only we humans give it that meaning.


  • Juli

    Thank you for saying what everyone else feels but doesn’t want to say. Knowing others feel the same provides some relief. I just question how to escape the sadness that comes from the confusion. I can’t seem to shake it.

    My favorite quote for lost feeling we all experience:
    “It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go, we have come to our real journey.” – Wendell Barry


    Lin Reply:

    That’s a great quote Juli!


  • Lin

    Wow. This really resonates with me. Thank you. And it’s come at a good time. For so long I have always expected more from myself, based on how everyone else is living (comparison being the thief of joy). I wouldn’t say I was jealous of what people had, or what owned – just that they had direction in their life (but do they really?). My big problem is that i’m a scanner – a Jill of all trades, master of none. I have many interests, and i’m pretty good at a lot of things (I do not mean to come off as up-myself). I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up – besides a wife and a mother. This week I quit uni for the 4th time (yes the 4th time!). I wanted to study teaching but found no ‘joy’ in it as I struggled with work and three little kids and trying to keep a marriage alive. So although I am mourning a lost career, and struggle to stop thinking so much about ‘my path’, I actually do feel more free and alive to go where life leads me, give love and time to my loved ones and to say yes to opportunities, and to be creative.


  • Gabrielle

    So needed to hear this today, on a day when there are no answers, and the questions are all brutes…

    Thanks Sarah. And thanks Anais


  • Natalya

    Most people I know who have that really attractive aura of serenity about them actually don’t know what the future holds and are ok with being passengers in this life as opposed to trying to scrabble around and control everything. ……and it’s something ( the act of surrendering) they do everyday and not only when ‘it all gets too much”. They are really nice to be around.


  • Amy

    Wow Sarah! You have made me feel a whole lot better!! Thank you! I have been having troubles lately with what I want to do and feel so confused about it all. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one. I’m a perfectionist and since I was young I have always worried that I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’m 24 now and working as an engineer and I’m not enjoying this particular job for various reasons. I know what I don’t like but I still don’t know what I want to do exactly and am feeling very confused about my life. And there are so many things I could do! I may be blowing my own trumpet here but I’m good at pretty much anything I do which makes it really hard to decide what to do. I also enjoying doing a lot of really different things such as cooking, pattern drafting, fashion design, maths, developing skin care, health and wellness, business, analysing everything and the list goes on… Do I just need to accept that most people don’t have jobs they are truly passionate about and they only get excitement through their hobbies?

    Hopefully it will all weave itself together somehow :)


    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    You need to read this, I think it will help.


    Amy Reply:

    Thanks Mia!! I am going to buy the book in that post. Very interesting and yes I can totally relate to it!


  • Rachel

    One of the reasons I stopped writing a personal blog and just write on my business website blog in sort of “warts and all” fashion now is because of the way people only see the good stuff. Even if that isn’t the writer’s intention.

    I got one too many emails asking me how I made my life happen because readers wanted my life….

    my life with auto-immune disease, the nights sitting up worrying about whether the business is viable, the times I missed thier lives (when I had a regular paycheck, health insurance and a pension)…



  • Trevor Otto

    I had a kind of nervous breakdown at 16 as I was depressed,miserable and full of confusion realising that I didn’t really know anything for sure. Gradually a determination to know,to know what life and possibly happiness was all about formed. It grew and it worked.


  • Trevor Otto

    My life has become like a mathematical equation…subtracting the fake,the illusions and adding the truths, taking me on a beyond special journey like no other. I have been at it conciously for forty years.


  • Donna

    Gee am I the only one who actually had to look up the word discombobulation?? LOL


  • Lopsy

    Thank you Sarah and everyone who’s posted.
    Blogging “Gold” !!



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  • Cassie

    I made the image my computer background! This is so fitting for me. I have an anxiety disorder and I am bipolar it’s hard to remember that others are just as confused as I am. Thank you!


  • Khadija

    This post is soo sad cause I have never felt this way. Following the religion of Islam since childhood, I have clarity, direction, purpose, goals and self security and Iam in my 30s now. I live my inner peace and believe true contentment and clarity comes from a belief in God. This is so weird reading this cause I never knew people live in a lost world of confusion.I dont mean any disrespect just surprise that it resonates with so many people.