1. Fran Stekoll says

    I don’t know how long I have to live.
    I don’t know how all my grandchildren will turn out.
    I don’t know if I’ll achieve my dream
    I don’t know if I’ll achieve all the requests on my bucket list
    I don’t know what my future has in store for me
    I don’t know what my daughters and son’s future holds
    I don’t know if I want to marry ever again
    I don’t know if I’ll ever get over my husbands death
    I don’t know who my real friends are
    I don’t know if I should achieve my Masters at my age
    I don’t know if I should buy a house for a tax write-off
    I don’t know if our Mobile Home Park will ever achieve equity.
    I don’t know if I’m supposed to support only me or help my siblings
    I don’t know if I’ll ever quit singing.
    I don’t know if I’ll ever stop being a giver and a dreamer

    I do know that I’m happy being a widow.
    I do know that I’m a creative being,
    I do know that I’m proud I’m an American
    I do know that I’m an intuitive person
    I do know who my really true and close friends are
    I do know that I’m capable of having a relationship again
    I do know that I’m an awesome counselor.
    I do know that I have abundant energy
    I do know that I have a positive attitude.
    I do know that these attributes really turn some folks off
    I do know that I need to lose more weight.
    I do know that I’m more patient with myself now
    I do know I love my family and my animals
    I do know I love to write
    I do know that GOD provides
    I do know that I can’t push the river
    I do know that I tend to get impatient rather quickly
    I do know that I’m a good listener
    I do know that I love to bake
    I do know that I don’t like cooking for myself
    I do know that I need companionship
    I do know that I want to travel
    I do know that I have to schedule that damn colonoscopy.shit)

    • Barbara Keller says

      Things I don’t know

      When I’ll die
      How I’ll die
      What heaven is like
      Who I’ll see there
      If my grandson will come to live with me here in Baja
      If my newspaper will ever make any money
      If I will have to die alone
      If there will ever be a man in my life again

      Things I know

      God is good and my life since I became a Christian is so much better than my life before that it’s not on the same chart.
      I love my daughter tremendously
      I loved her father, who died 35 years ago, and who was not a good husband or father, and I will be happy to see him in heaven
      Living in Baja is good for me
      My grandson needs me and that is ever so much better than no one needing me
      I’m a writer
      I’m a cook
      I’m sick of being lonely

  2. says

    Things I Know:

    Even though I was told repeatedly that my work was to do “big things” in the world, and that I “could have children if I really wanted to,” having my kids was and is the best thing in my life.
    I’m headed into a season of change over the next few years.
    There are lots of things I want to do and adventures I want to have while I still can.
    Relationships change dramatically over the course of a lifetime–especially with the most primal relationships we have–in my case, my mother.
    Santa Cruz suits me. I love living here.
    I am willing to change in a deep way for my children more than for anyone else.
    I love helping building community more than I love teaching writing.
    I am an imperfect human being and I need to love and accept myself with humor, just as I am.

    Things I Don’t Know:

    if my cancer will come back. If I will die of cancer.
    How I will die.
    Who my children and grandson will become.
    Whether I will ever integrate my physical passion and my intellectual passion.
    When and how my mother will die.
    Much of anything.
    Less than I did ten years ago.
    How to free myself from habit and obsession–though I want to.

    • Ilana says

      I loved this list, Laura! How honoring of motherhood to say that with all the amazing things you’ve done having kids was the best thing in your life. I also found the part about your relationship with your mother so encouraging. Right now that goes in the “Things I don’t know” column for me. Your story gives me hope. Thank you for responding to the prompt this week. IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      Laura, I always love your reverence of being a mother, grandmother, and even a daughter. I admire that very much. I wish you courage in your ‘season of change’ and that you keep that sense of humor alive, though I can’t imagine you without it. Please accept yourself in everything you are–and then teach me how you did it. Just kidding. Like Ilana said, it is nice to have you respond to prompts too. Take good care of yourself.

    • Debbie says

      Just chiming in to add my enjoyment, as well, that you posted to this prompt. Interesting how many of us mentioned our own deaths as part of the not knowing.

  3. Laura says

    I don’t know:
    what tomorrow holds
    who created this world
    when I will die
    what happens after death
    what challenges lie ahead
    whether I will get to live in this rental house long enough for my girls to have the stability I want for them
    how much my debilitating health problems will improve
    whether I will ever be able to work again
    if my girls will live long happy healthy lives
    how I will manage financially for the rest of my life
    whether I will ever meet my soulmate
    how I will ever handle losing my mother when she dies

    I do know:
    I am stronger emotionally than I have ever been
    I am capable of handling more than I thought
    people are capable of more healing and growth than I thought
    my relationships are healthier than ever
    I have many blessings, including my daughters and amazing friends
    bad things can happen at any time
    unexpected blessings and good fortune can happen at any time
    nurturing my creative spirit is essential for my happiness

    I do know:

    • Laura says

      I just wanted to add that I purposely did not look at what anyone else had already written before I wrote my lists, and so it is very interesting how much overlap there is with what others have shared. Also I wrote this quickly so that I would not filter anything and could find out what I really think about my life. Otherwise, I tend to get in the way of knowing myself. Thanks, Laura, for this prompt.

      • Debbie says

        Laura – I have a personal discipline that I don’t read any of the posts until I have written my own response – on any week. Like you, I have found it fascinating how many overlaps there are in the lists posted so far. Thanks for contributing!

  4. Cathy Krizik says

    Things I don’t know:

    I don’t know how to ski — that is the downhill variety — and I’m not loosing any sleep over it. In fact, I’d like to keep it that way.

    Don’t know how to put on a condom. I’m too old to have had the chance to practice with a banana in sex-education class (pre-AIDS girl that I am ) and too much of an old lesbian to even do it in adult life.

    Don’t know how to throw a diner party party without anxiety. I can set the table, and cook and put food on the table and keep relatively lively conversation going. I can sit back at the end of the meal and feel satisfied. I can do all that but I can’t do all that without a healthy dose of anxiety and trepidation and regret that I invited people to begin with. I can live without skiing and knowing how to put a condom on but I’m not sure I’m willing to live without anxiety-free dinner parties.

    I don’t know how to leave the house without lipstick. Well, okay, that’s not exactly true. I do and I have. I will amend my statement and add the addendum “…and free dressed”

    I DO know how to get dressed. One foot at a time.

    I know how to cook but I’m not sure how. Besides junior high home economics where Mrs Hill taught us how to make Salisbury Steak (WHY??) and how to properly peel an orange — I don’t remember being taught to cook. I witnessed it, at my mother’s side making Hungarian Goulash or my father, head buried in Julia Child’s “The French Chef”, making Coq au Vin for Xmas dinner.

    I know how to ride a bicycle – and with glee. The hill that was Jackson Road that is now barely a molehill. up and down and up and down and up and down. We’d spend hour – playing card attached to the back wheel with a clothespin, fluttering a racket, an audible record of my speed. Oh, I know how to ride a bike.

    Not twenty minutes but a client just showed up. Gotta go.

  5. Jennifer Ire says

    Things I don’t know:
    I don’t know why I chose this life
    I don’t know why I chose to be born poor black and female in this world.
    I don’t know how to swim
    I don’t know what is the purpose of human life.
    I do not know how to do surgery.
    I do not know how to play a musical instrument.
    I do not know how to do origami
    I do not know how to be at peace with the way human life has evolved.
    I do not know the purpose of the emotion hate.
    I do not know the purpose of politics.
    I do not know how to be peaceful in a noisy city.
    I do not know why radiating every organ in a person’s body every time s/he has to fly anywhere, makes it safe to fly.
    I do not know why, since the start of the mass radiations and searches by the gov’t, food in airports have become simultaneously worse tasting and more expensive.

    Things I do know:
    I do know that this planet is beautiful and can take care of every being.
    I do know that it matters not what you look like.
    I do know that I am human.
    I do know how to drive a car.
    I do know that walking is the most wonderful way to use to get around.
    I do know that I am much different than I was.
    I do know that I love and accept myself in a more real way than I used to.
    I do know that I have complete trust in the evolution of my life even though I don’t know why.
    I do know that I have lived on this planet as human many times before now.
    I do know that there is a way to live in peace and harmony on this planet.
    I do know that the conceptual distinctions created to divide human beings are just that, concepts.
    I do know that I love to write.
    I do know that I am a writer
    I do know that I used to love to do math before it was harassed by professors and it became easier to give it up.
    I do know that I am divinely guided and protected by the fact that I am still alive.
    I do know that I like to laugh and have fun.
    I do know that I will be able to afford to go home for a long visit sometime soon.
    I do know that I am tired of the noise, awful air, bad-tasting water, dirty streets, and other niceties of city living.
    I do know I will leave this city sometime soon.
    I do know that I am done with this exercise.

      • Jenny says

        Will do my best to keep up. Life is full of little surprises. I am working on some of those pieces started at the retreat and needing to say more.

    • Ilana says

      Jennifer- Beautifully stated. My favorite line was. “I have complete trust in the evolution of my life, even though I don’t know why.” And I loved the way you ended. “I know that I am done with this exercise.” Well done! I look forward to your future posts. IM

    • Debbie says

      Jenny – I also like the way you ended the post! It brought a smile to my face – and I wished I had thought of it, too.

  6. Terry Gibson says

    Things I Don’t Know

    If I will ever see my relatives again.
    How I will cope with the deaths of people I love.
    If I will get breast cancer like so many of my friends.
    If my death will come from a long illness or something sudden like an accident.
    If I jeopardize my integrity by accepting the generosity of the amazing people in my life.
    If I’ll condemn myself the first time I make a mistake with them.
    If I’ll ever stop missing Steve’s voice, laugh, our connectedness, and his encouraging and loving eyes.
    Whether I’ll ever be able to forgive my Mom and stepfather for what they did to me.
    If it’s necessary to forgive them to carry on living happily and freely.
    If I can ever begin to soothe the agony I feel about all the irrecoverable time they stole from me (time when I couldn’t ‘perform’ at school or work or think about saving money; with a suicide ideation I fought hour by hour, minute by minute, there was no future to prepare for.).
    When I will stop feeling ripped off and humiliated for my stupidity in trusting my mother.

    What I Do Know

    My friends are my family and I love them dearly.
    I love travel and want to do so much more of it.
    I am a very adaptable person and seasoned traveller.
    If I didn’t have the horrific beginnings I did, I would not be as compassionate and loving as I am today.
    I want to feel free to be emotionally naked with close friends. In other words, if a lingering pain is triggered somehow, I let the tears stream down my face.
    My friends would know I don’t want attention; they’ll know that I’m just tending to a sadness when it happens–as, much of the time, I am stoic from all the decades I had to be.
    I will become present again soon, be genuinely smiling, laughing, and contributing to what’s going on around me.
    I don’t ever want to stop missing Steve.
    I like being a good listener.
    Being believed and trusted, after decades of being called a liar, has helped me breathe comfortably again.
    I give back what I expect in my close friendships: confidentiality, gentleness, respect, sincerity, the truth, no judgment or fear of reprisal. Oh yes, a fine sense of ha-ha.
    I know that if I fail at one of those points above, I will be approaching you, at some time, to work it out—just as soon as we both feel able and willing to do so.
    I’m scared of dying before telling my loved ones how much they mean to me, what a huge impact it has been to have them accept and like me, even before I could do the same.
    I’m scared of dying alone in a dodgy care home with nobody who knows or cares for me.
    While I’ve helped provide that for others, I’m worried there won’t be someone to reciprocate for me.
    I love singing, dancing, blossoming, wondering, curiosity, learning, watching toddlers stumble toward their Moms and Dads in the park, laughing, horseback riding, meeting and learning from people of all cultures, swimming, movies, good books, writing, adventure, and dry, warped humour.
    I am a passionate woman and need to share that in all areas of my life.
    I aspire to be the best person I can but often fall short and make mistakes which makes me feel ashamed.
    I carry no malice in my heart for anyone.
    I may become the writer I want to be.
    I will never be the rock star I truly want to be.

    • Ilana says

      What a beautiful list, Terry. Thank you for sharing it. So reassuring to know what we know. Perhaps also reassuring to know what we don’t know..?

    • Ilana says

      Terry- Back for a second read. Don’t feel I did it justice the first time. I love how you’ve got so much joy mixed in with deep pain. It makes the piece, and you- by virtue of your communication- so rich and multifaceted. I am deeply touched by your courage to recognize your strengths so unabashedly. It is refreshing and empowering to me as the reader. The picture you draw of becoming present by genuine smiles, laughter and a contribution to what is going on around you was very compelling. And finally, I loved the image of being “emotionally naked in front of close friends.” That is one I used in a poem I wrote when Zander and I had been together only a few weeks. The last line of the poem was “Living naked, unashamed and unafraid until the end of time.” This piece is so rich and full that I was overwhelmed at first. I’m sorry that I chose to respond so quickly to it. Thanks for the second chance. IM

      • Terry Gibson says

        Ilana, any reply is always welcome to me. Thanks for both. Before you responded, I almost added an apology for parts of what I wrote; I felt bad about the ones which were so painful. I thought that I should’ve kept those to myself. Isn’t it crazy how quickly we can go from feeling good and accepting of ourselves to the exact opposite? Thanks for snapping me back. It was an awful day.

        • Ilana says

          I’ve been there too and this community has always encouraged me to write what I feel, even leave out the sugar if i needed to.

    • Debbie says

      Terry – again, it is so interesting how many similar items we all posted. There were some of yours that really hit close to home but maybe none of them more than this line: “I will become present again soon, be genuinely smiling, laughing, and contributing to what’s going on around me.” For both of us, a hope and knowing!

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks Debbie. Appreciate it. So you’re used to the ebb and flow of emotions too, eh? Just thought I’d throw in that ‘eh’ for those at the retreat who teased me about my Canadian vernacular.

  7. Ilana says

    I Know and I Don’t Know

    I don’t know what’s going to happen between my younger brother and me.
    I know that meeting the new me is going to shock the hell out of him.
    I don’t know if he is capable of seeing me for who I really am.
    I know I’ve spent the last 30 years fighting for his approval.
    I don’t know why I kept trying.
    I know I will never get it.
    I don’t know why he never saw me.
    I know that in those thirty years he has said 4 kind things to me. I remember each and every one of them. I can’t count high enough to keep track of all the judgments, insults, barbs and lectures he has hurled at me. But I remember how each one of them felt slicing through my heart.
    I don’t know why he is so cruel.
    I know why I need his love so badly.
    I don’t know if I will ever get it.
    I know how to make his meanness stop hurting me.
    I don’t know if I will ever be able to do it.
    I know what is going to happen between my husband and me.
    I know he is fiercely proud of the new me.
    I don’t know what else life is going to put us through.
    I know we will survive it.
    I don’t know how he knew, 14 years ago, that I had the potential to be the woman I am today.
    I know he believes in me.
    I don’t know why I was lucky enough to find him.
    I know I will never take him for granted.
    I don’t know why he chose to fight alongside me in this war.
    I know that between the two of us we constitute a small army.
    I don’t know how I am going to survive this battle.
    I know he will be at my side until the very end.
    I don’t know if I could do it without him.
    I know I don’t have to.
    I don’t know if I will lose my brother.
    I know that if I do lose him it will be a necessary sacrifice to save my own life.
    I don’t know how I will bear that loss.
    I know that I won’t have to bear it alone.

    • Laura Davis says

      Thanks Ilana for sharing such a tender, vulnerable spot in your life. I loved the way you juxtaposed the “I knows” with the “I don’t knows.” I like that you took that liberty–and with such a powerful, striking result.

      • Ilana says

        Thanks Laura- It has been a very difficult couple of weeks for me. Got hit hard by a nasty piece of antisemitism in my support group, of all places. I am getting better at ‘taking liberties’ to live my life my way and protect myself regardless of how others feel about it. It’s a painful process but an important skill to learn. Thank you for this safe place to practice it. IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      I also love how you followed your I Don’t Knows with the I Do. As always I am in awe of the struggles you handle and the power of you and Zander together. With every statement, I can feel the power of your army of two. Such a beautiful love story! I’m so thrilled that you have that long-abiding love; it’s a gift you so deserve. (PS: Because of your previous piece, I let people take photos of me at Commonweal. It’s really hard but I did it, with you in mind.)

      • Ilana says

        Terry- I am touched at your observations about my own piece and truly honored at the effect that “Neglecting the Photograph” had on you. Thank you for your comments and for thinking of me. IM

    • Debbie says

      Ilana – I was thinking just what Laura wrote as I was reading your post – the way you mixed what you don’t know with what you know – so creative and powerful. I also like how you moved from “I know I will never get it” to ” I don’t know if I will ever get it”. Very subtle, and interesting for the reader. Really enjoyed your work from the perspective of the content and the style. Thanks!

      • Ilana says

        Debbie- I hadn’t even realized that I went from “I know I will never get it.” to “I don’t know if I will ever get it.” The first is referring to (not) Matt’s approval and the second refers to his love. Now that you point it out I see how accurate and telling it is. I have given up hope on earning his approval. Somewhere, deep inside me I still nurture a hope that he will one day love me. Even if it is painful, knowing the truth is comforting. Thank you for helping me find it in my own writing. IM

  8. Debbie says

    Twenty Things I Don’t Know

    1. Why cutting back plants helps them to grow stronger. I accept it, and think there is a metaphor for me in there somewhere – but I don’t understand how cutting off parts of their living limbs makes them grow back even more.
    2. What really is the physiological essence of life. I understand the scientific explanations but have seen the dying defy all scientific “rules” and transition out of this physical realm on their own terms.
    3. Why dogs love us so much. But really glad they do!
    4. Why humans can do such horrific things to each other in the name of religion, God or love.
    5. I don’t know how to change the brake light on my car – even though I have read the directions
    6. I don’t know if the world will end on Dec 21, 2012 – sure hoping the Mayans just ran out of materials to record the future.
    7. How my cell phone works, really. No wires, through the air, all over the country? I am still amazed
    8. How people can really think that anything they post on Facebook is private?!
    9. How my life will end or when
    10. How I will be able to provide care for my mother and retain my sense of self over the next few year
    11. If I will ever understand what it is to have healthy love in my life
    12. If I will ever have the courage to take the chance on having healthy love in my life
    13. How to play the guitar – though I really love to hear acoustic guitar music
    14. How to speak Spanish – but I just signed up for online courses, finally!
    15. When I will make the next visit to the NC town where I lived for eight years, until this past May
    16. What will happen between my ex-life partner and I as distance and time separates our lives
    17. How to be silly anymore
    18. What my life lesson in this physical incarnation was or is to be.
    (this is as far as I got in 10 minutes)

    Things I do know:

    1. That being kind to each other is the greatest gift we can give.
    2. The way we look at the world determines what we see.
    3. It is possible to keep growing and healing as long as we keep breathing
    4. There are dimensions in this physical life that we don’t see or understand – so we dismiss them
    5. The writing I have done over this past year has transformed my life
    6. I need people more than I like to admit
    7. I have a huge capacity to experience emotion – joy and sorrow – without having to get lost in it
    8. Words are powerful; spoken or written – and we are careless with our communication
    9. That I can sense the feelings of others on some unconscious level
    10. That I have knowledge and perspective to share of value
    11. There is so much yet to learn and be experienced
    12. I will never give up on trying to be a better person
    13. If “partnered love” is not in my future, that I will be okay and still find happiness
    14. I want to contribute to the solutions not just identify the problems; in my life, in the lives of others I care about, in my work, in my community and in the world.
    15. I will take all of my patience and life experiences to successfully navigate the next years with my aging mother.
    16. I am afraid of being old, infirm and having no one and/or no resources to help care for me
    17. That as long as I don’t give up, there is always hope for change.
    18. That these weekly prompts and this online community help keep me connected to my passion for writing
    19. I have grown into a person of value whose dark life experiences have helped me develop greater empathy, respect and caring for others.

    (didn’t make it to 20 in the 20 minutes – but close!)

    • Ilana says

      Wow Debbie, what full and rich lists. I don’t think it needs one more entry. I love the hope you have infused into even the sad entries. I learned from all of it but was most touched by #19 on the second list. It is often hard for me to be grateful for the painful experiences but we draw from all of them to become who we are. Bravo! IM

  9. Bobbie Anne says

    I am a cancer survivor and while I don’t know when I will die, but I try to think positively. My grandfather said when your number is up, that is when you go. Maybe so, but I’m going to do everything I can to keep living. I try to do the best I can. In fact, I am going to a cancer support meeting tonight and there is a holistic nurse who will speak with us. I’m going to take notes and listen. I’ll ask questions if there is something she mentions that might help. I try to eat healthy, take vitamin supplements, and pray for the best outcomes and for others and myself. Prayer works wonders for me!

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