Living With Uncertainty
Like many (most? all?) of you, I’m struggling right now.
As a teacher, I’m used to a certain rhythm of the school year. And by now, I should be excited for summer, exhausted by the demands of the end of the school year and putting energy into finalizing plans for the next school year.
Instead, I’m sad about not being able to say goodbye in person, more blah than exhausted and the next school year is simply one big question mark.
I find myself increasingly distressed by the unknown of what’s coming. I keep reflecting back on the comfort (unappreciated at the time) of past years, when plans were in place and I could find peace in the surety of what was around the next corner.
But then I catch myself. Because those plans of past years were only certainties because I’m viewing them from the perspective of the future, where the scheduled events were carried out with only relatively small adjustments.
The truth is that uncertainty is always present, we simply hide it away beneath a veneer of imagined control, applied so that we don’t have to face the discomfort of admitting that we don’t have the ultimate say in what happens.
This year is no more or less uncertain than any other time. The outcomes are always in limbo and only seem inevitable once they occur.
Of course, the unknowns are more pronounced right now, like magma bubbling to the surface after a seismic event. It’s difficult to imagine what next week will look like, much less next month or next year. We are all being forced to drop our plans. In reaction, we’re grasping to control what we can – setting rules and boundaries for our families, calling out those who aren’t socially distancing the way we are and arguing against the ways our governments are handling the outbreak and the economic fallout.
It certainly FEELS different.
Because we become so accustomed to life unfolding in relatively predictable ways. And it’s only when it breaks open that we realize how that predictably is a story we tell ourselves so that we can sleep at night.
I keep thinking back to my summer 11 years ago. In a span of hours, I went from believing that I would never be apart from my then-husband to learning that everything we had together was a lie. Upon the discovery, I felt like I was in free fall, unable to trust anything. But in reality, the revelation of the duplicitous life wasn’t anything new, it simply uncovered what had always been there. I fought against that unknown for a time, craving the feeling of solid ground beneath my feet again. Yet it is was only when I stopped struggling to control every outcome that I was able to relax.
The lesson in all of this isn’t going to be found in finding a new way to try to control life. It’s in learning how to find acceptance that there is little outside ourselves that we can control and finding peace regardless.
Most days, I’m still struggling against this. But I’m finding moments when I can simply be in – and appreciate- today without undo concern for tomorrow.
Hope you all are well and are able to find your moments of peace.
This is hard. And also, in the words of Glennon Doyle, “We can do hard things.”