My first marriage was in December 1999, the apex of the collective anxiety around Y2K. At the time, my fiance and I operated from a place of optimism, rationality and faith. Despite the warnings and fears that we were constantly being bombarded with, we decided to move forward with the assumption that everything would work out.
And it did. Well, at least the transition into the new century worked out. (The marriage was something else entirely, but I don’t think I can blame Y2K for that one.) All of that anxiety and fear building up to the new year grew as flat as the leftover champagne while the sun rose on January 1.
Staying calm and present during times of uncertainty is hard. By nature, we are uncomfortable with the unknown. Yet life is not a book, where we can peek at the final chapter before we dig into the narrative. Our lives offer up no synopsis prior to living so that we can prepare ourselves for what is to come.
It’s easy to get swept up in the anxiety of the unknown, to put life on hold while waiting for the conclusion to be revealed and for life to return to normal.
Yet even the idea of an “end” is a falsehood. Consider the current arrangement of the continents. We know they used to exist in one solid mass (Pangea), that has since broken apart and drifted into the familiar patterns we were quizzed on in school. Yet the drifting is not over, the formations are not set. Just because most of the changes are too slow to be perceptible within a human lifespan, does not mean that change is not occurring.
We want to know how it ends so that we can be reassured that we’re making the right decisions. We want to know how it ends so that we can be prepared. We want to know how it ends so that we can adjust our expectations accordingly.
We want to see the end of the bridge, tethered securely to a welcoming shore, before we take the first step.
Yet standing still does not keep the unknown at bay. It simply restricts our lives as the future unfolds. We can’t see the end. We can’t change the end. But we can make the decision not to live in fear of the end.
I have a five-year spiral journal. My entry earlier this week included, “I wonder what we think about the coronavirus one year from today?” And I don’t know what entry might be recorded on that same page next year. The previous entry might remind me of a forgotten fear, the virus and the associated panic a distant memory. Or, life may have changed dramatically to the point of becoming unrecognizable. Most likely, the entry will fall somewhere in between. But in the meantime, I have 364 more entires to record. And I’m going to take them one day at a time.
Because we may never know how it ends, but we can be present while we get there.