Archive for the ‘uncertainty’ Category

I run from conflict.

[Perceived personal attacks or criticisms trigger my flight-or-flight response (no, that’s not a typo).]

That’s not entirely true. Let’s be honest here. Most often, when an interaction turns antagonistic, I freeze.

[Apparently, freezing is a natural fear response to give the mammal in question (me) time to assess the situation before fighting or flighting.]

Whatever the biology… I. Don’t. Like. Conflict. Big revelation, right? I mean, who does? Except for maybe lawyers, rappers, and Jerry Springer, that is. But it’s more than just a preference for some of us. For me, it’s become something that causes me to isolate myself and avoid the kinds of long-term relationships that are important to happiness and growth. Even the potential of conflict causes an obsessive whirlwind of stressful thoughts and feelings.

I am so conflict averse that I’ve become a chronically single solo entrepreneur who earns most of his income from sitting alone writing.

Hi, my name is Curtis. I’m a conflict aversion addict. And I’m ready for a change.

Step 4 of any Twelve-Step program suggests taking a “fearless moral inventory” of oneself. Knowing and accepting who you are (the full picture, the “good” and “bad”) and why you are who you are, are prerequisites for conscious growth.

So let’s start by taking a trip to the past…

Looking to my formative years, my conflicts consisted of fighting with my younger sister over limited resources (mom’s attention, the one television, the front seat of the car, etc.) and fighting with my parents about their reasonable and unreasonable rules of behavior. A common enough childhood experience, I imagine.

I’m not aware of many (if any) “scarring” level conflicts with either my mother or sister. They may exist, but if they do, they’ve long been forgotten by my conscious mind. I was the older brother, my mom was very loving and fair, and the conflicts I do remember were resolved quickly and relatively unemotionally.

My conflicts with my father are a different story. I remember them being quite intense. Turned up to 11.

My dad’s rules seemed arbitrary, his standards impossible to meet. Conflict with him felt very unfair and defeat felt personal.

Therefore, it seems that my most emotionally-heightened experiences of conflict at that formative age were extremely one-sided and I often (always?) lost.

In that context, learning to avoid conflict seems like a necessary survival skill for my child self. The problem is applying that survival skill now as an adult in situations where it’s not effective or appropriate.

Adult Curtis: Poor, predictable Curtis. Always chooses conflict avoidance.
Child Curtis: Good ol’ conflict avoidance! Nothing beats that!

Okay, moral inventory complete. [Not quite, but this is a blog post. Move along, nothing to see here.]

So what about that change I’m apparently ready for?

The answer seems to be more exposure to people. More investment in relationships of all kinds. More structures in my life that “force” me to interact with others in messy, emotional ways. More risk taking. More vulnerability and trust. More authentic communication. More beer. Okay, not more beer. Less beer. Less emotional eating. Less obsessive people pleasing. Less thinking and more feeling. Most importantly, less hiding.

So here I am, coming out of hiding. What are your thoughts, suggestions, experiences? Conflict is welcome in the comments below. [I think. No definitely. Just be nice, okay? Or fuck it, be mean. Let’s do this. I’m ready. I think.]

Thank you.


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My trip to Denmark is coming soon. And as the departure date draws nearer, it brings with it a growing uncertainty about my life. The only thing that feels certain is the sudden realization that I’m not ready to die. That thought hit me yesterday like a punch in the face.

I picture myself on my death bed, knowing the inevitable is at hand, and I hear my mother’s words the day before she died, “Please, God, I’m not ready to go yet.” Unlike her, I have no god to beg for more time; I have no god to surrender to and put my faith in. The story of me that this linguistic brain has been telling itself for all these years ends when the body expires.

And “I’m” not ready for that. Why? I don’t feel alive.

Imagine being on a merry-go-round but you’re distracted and unaware of the ride. Suddenly the attendant signals that the ride is over. You exclaim, “Wait, you can’t stop the ride yet! I wasn’t paying attention!”

So what does it take to feel alive? Clearly I don’t know. But I have some guesses…


A more fully realized awareness of the here and now. Vibrant sensations of my experience of life that drown out the conceptual chatter in the mind. Or as the Buddhists teach, maybe the chatter is just another sensation? [Buddhism recognizes 6 senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, the feeling body / touch, and the thinking mind.]


A passion for life and its component pieces. Respect for (and awe at) how life shows up — however life shows up, even if it’s in a way I didn’t intend or expect or desire. The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek word entheos which means “having a god within.” A Higher Power for the non-believer, perhaps? A way to feel connected to life itself?


Seeing through the illusion of separation. True empathy. The story of me isolates “me” conceptually from the rest of life. But it’s an arbitrary division. To quote Alan Watts from The Wisdom of Insecurity:

Where do I begin and end in space? I have relations to the sun and air which are just as vital parts of my existence as my heart. The movement which I am a pattern or convolution began incalculable ages before the (conventionally isolated) event called ‘birth’, and will continue long after the event called ‘death’. Only words and conventions can isolate us from the entirely undefinable something which is everything.

So, how do I make presence, enthusiasm, and connection livable? How do I feel more alive? Again, some guesses:

  • Sitting still more, chasing goals less
  • Going outside more, hiding inside less
  • Creating more space, having less stuff
  • Appreciating more (“What I love about this is…”), criticizing less (“What I hate about this is…”)
  • Surrendering more, “controlling” less
  • Noticing and enjoying synchronicity more, playing the victim less
  • Experiencing other humans more, conceptualizing them less

I acknowledge that this inquiry risks turning life into a future objective. Therefore, most importantly, I must recognize that life is now.

To feel alive is not an objective, not a destination. Maybe to feel alive is no more complicated than to feel life. As I type these words, I feel the keys against my fingertips, the laptop against my legs, my feet against the floor, the flow of air into and out of my lungs, and so much more.

As I type these words, by a simple choice to feel, I come alive.


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I want to take a few moments to toot my own horn a bit.

Yesterday at a festive Memorial Day gathering of good friends, I stepped up in front of the crowd, ready to make a fool of myself.

What did I do? I performed the song I wrote last year. I stood there with my guitar and a microphone, with nothing to hide behind, played the song…and the world didn’t end.

Now what’s the big deal with playing a song? Thousands of people do that every day. For me, though, it was the first time ever. I’ve played guitar in bands for years; most recently, I’ve been backing up my friend and singer, Jim Stevens. But that’s the point. I’m comfortable (relatively so) in the background. The thought of performing solo — especially since I’m not a singer — was terrifying.

And right up until the point where I started playing the song, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it. The only reason I think it happened is because I made no official announcement that I was beginning. There was no big “oh my God I’m about to do this” moment. I just started playing while people were talking, and before I knew it, the show had begun.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous. Even when I messed up the guitar part in the second verse. I smiled at Jim (who smiled back), got my bearings in the song, and continued. My friend, Kelly, stepped up behind me to do some vocal harmonies. It all unfolded naturally, comfortably.

Even though there was no big moment of decision, I did have a little conversation with myself about 10 minutes before I started. On the verge of deciding not to perform, I imagined myself in bed later that night, and I knew that I’d regret it if I didn’t give it a shot. And then a voice spoke to me. “Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself. That’s the most important lesson you’ll learn in your life, Curtis.”

My singing was timid and off-key more than it was confident and on-key, but so what? I did something I’ve always wanted to do. I took something that was outside of my circle of life experience and brought it within. And I discovered it was safe for me to be a fool.

Each one of us has things we’re comfortable with and things we’re not. Too often the line between the two can feel like a wall, impossible to climb. But the wall is imaginary, and all it takes to cross that line is a single step forward.


Hear the original recording I produced last year:

Where I Want to Be by Curtis G. Schmitt

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Life has felt very weird recently. I alternate between two extremes: On the one side I’m totally fed up with the so-called safety of mediocrity and ready to jump off the cliff into greatness, and on the other side I regress back into old insecurities and fears that I haven’t felt in years.

I’m hyper aware of the slow death that is the life I’ve been living. It feels as if I’m just running out the clock, and I don’t want to live like that anymore. I want to take more risks. But it’s almost like I can’t find the cliff to jump off of.

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Last night as I was driving to my weekly Power of Now discussion group, I was feeling anxious about money. So I spoke to her:

“Money, I do trust you, and I know that you care about me. But it’s challenging to remember that and not get caught up in the uncertainty. What can I do?”

Show me how much you can create with the resources you have, and then I will give you more, she replied.

And it hit me. I have a life that many people dream of. I run my own business, I set my own schedule. And the big insight was this: I’m single without children, and this is an advantage. Typically, I see that as a negative. But given that reality, there is much I can do with it.

For example, two of my main focuses at this stage of my life are writing my book and practicing inner peace. There are few people whose lives are better suited to these things than me. Yet if you listen to me, I talk about how I don’t have time for them. If I don’t have time for them, who the hell does?

My life is perfect in that context. And that’s all reality is…context, perspective. It’s time for me to appreciate how perfect my life is, embrace the resources I have, and create.

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I had no idea when I began these 100 Days of Peace in Uncertainty where I would find myself on Day 100. And I haven’t yet reviewed my early posts, but my sense is that my relationship to uncertainty is unrecognizable from what it was 3+ months ago. It feels so good.

This whole exploration of my relationship to uncertainty was really about my relationship to fear. I see that clearly. I may have understood that conceptually — “of course uncertainty is about fear” — but I get it on a deep experiential level now.

What it feels like is this: I’d been walking through mud before, slowed down by this mucky muck of fear and uncertainty. Now I walk freely — or if not freely then freer. I don’t mind so much that I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. It is enough to be here today. I still enjoy imagining grand tomorrows, but I don’t so much worry about what if tomorrow is not so grand.

Today is a heaven if I choose it to be. And more and more I am aware of my power to choose.

I intend to begin my next 100 Days of Peace very soon. In the meantime, I may add to this post as I reflect more on these past 100 Days.

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I’ve been watching my two nieces 4 days a week for the past few weeks. Today my 5-year-old niece asked me, “Uncle Curtis, you know what your problem is?”

I love how direct and unfiltered children can be. And I value their perspective tremendously, especially this niece. So I gave her my attention. “Please tell me.”

“You take us to too many places. As soon as we’re having fun we have to leave to go somewhere else.”

Boy, did she hit the nail on the head. I’ve recognized this tendency to try to cram way too much into my life. And I’ve experienced the value of slowing down, something I’ve written about in this blog.

And to have it mirrored back to me by a child was humbling and powerful.

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