I have always been content with uncertainty. After things are up in the air, they will ultimately settle. Perhaps, unpredictably. But, I spend little time worrying over the intricacies. This is not a super power. After visualizing the best case, worst case, and most likely case outcomes, my mind is content with its understanding of the possibility space, and I move on.

Nature and nurture are inextricable motivators when it comes to human behaivior. Though, I always assumed that this calm demeanor came from a fortunate set of genes. A recent conversation covering my childhood has begun to convince me otherwise.

I always had an early bed time. My parents played this one well, realizing that their only free time each day began after the three of us children had floated off to sleep. Of course, the earlier sleep came, the more time my parents had to themselves. Most of my life followed a consistent schedule; out of school at 3, dinner at 530, and in bed and asleep by 730, giving my parents a cherished few hours together before they too fell to sleep.1

As I grew through middle school, and into high school, my bedtime was extended, ultimately settling at 930pm. This was truly a categorical shift in my nightly activities, as I finally stayed up late enough to join in my parents’ daily television routine. At 830, the news would go on. Thirty minutes of talking heads telling me exactly what I needed to know. I usually ignored this half hour. Then, at 9, Law and Order came on. Every single night. There must be thousands of episodes. My parents and I would sit together and enjoy each night’s dive into the latest obscene crime.

Each show follows a similar recipe. The opening credits lead into a crime scene and the story’s foundation. Then a commercial break. After, a series of interviews and information reveals build the suspense, which leads into a cliffhanger commercial break at the 30 minute mark. Then, in an office with computers and coffee, a detective finds the key piece of evidence in an initially overlooked security tape. Third commercial break. The show wraps up with a confession and court sentencing.

However, my nightly Law and Order consumption was capped after the first half hour. Every night, for two years, I watched the build up of this addicting TV drama, and then promptly went to sleep. No closure, no explanation. Each night, my mind would make a complete 180 from figuring out a crime drama, to lying on a pillow, falling asleep.

Some nights, I’d come up with my own endings, but most nights, I’d be content with placing the drama in a mental box, closing the lid, allowing my drowsiness to take over. By morning, any thought of the show had left my mind, and I moved on with my day.

Perhaps these two years trained this monastic ability to compartmentalize and move on. Just like my experience with Law and Order, experiences in life rarely have clean and satisfying endings

1(This could only work in a pre-constant communication, pre-cell phone childhood, where it was hard to compare my own activities with other friends in real time.)

Header photo © etonline.com 2017