Living with Uncertainty

Take this time to get to know yourself better.

Life in the time of quarantine is full of uncertainty. We don't know when we'll return to work or when the kids will be back in school. For some of us, these are the least of our worries. Survival may be our primary concern, but there's no way of knowing when emergencies might occur. The rest of the time we are being asked to sit on the sidelines and wait.

In times like these, trying to force a sense of certainty takes us out of touch with reality. We are like the leaf in a swift moving stream, calling out its preferences to forces beyond its control. Our knee-jerk reaction to uncertainty is to scramble for certainty in order to regain control.

Unfortunately, grabbing at quick answers keeps us busy, but does nothing to help us come out stronger in the end. So maybe times such as these are not calling for quick action alone; maybe they are calling for our evolution too. If we can respond to what uncertainty is asking us to do—adapt and evolve—we might solve the problem and even find meaning in our efforts.

One meaning of such an uncertain time might be to redirect us away from externals and back toward the basics of self-discovery. Perhaps the adaptive evolution for each one of us will be to discover who we are and what is important to us—once we can no longer chase distractions. When the outside world stops, we are left with is what's on the inside: in other words, our soul.

Instead of the outside world telling us how to have fun by spending money, we are staying at home and getting to know ourselves all over again. You may have discovered that you don't mind being left alone or having nothing to do. You may have found that your fear of missing out disappeared once everything was cancelled.

Your social persona may have fallen by the wayside since no one looks good on Zoom and we can't get our hair colored anyway. You may find that staring into space feels oddly right, or that television and light reading have turned out to be much more rewarding that the self-improvement and house-cleaning you thought you'd do if only you had three or four weeks of freedom from work. Your soul might be content to simply exist.

Maybe it takes this kind of uncertainty and lack of control to get us to connect with our inner worlds and discover what we really enjoy about being alive. It may not be possible to know the ultimate meaning of this pandemic, but maybe all we need to know is that we have to adapt to less activity in order to survive, and that this adaptation could help support us when life gets back to normal.

In my experience, it's impossible to flourish fully without some development of our inner world. It's basically what people come to psychotherapy for. Without an awareness of our inner world, our relationships suffer, our goals remain unsatisfyingly acquisitive, and our connection to life feels superficial and drearily dependent on the next new thing. Perhaps the virus is a gift to go deeper.

Without so much to do, our minds have a chance to find a fresh energy of clarity. Perhaps we will shake off conventional thinking as we ponder a personal reconsideration of our enlarged selves. As we are forced like that leaf to go with the current, maybe we'll find that we've always been carried along by an inner guidance about what really matters. Maybe in the absence of hugs or the reassuring crush of a good-time crowd, we will find that we can still maintain love and connection from the quality of our thoughts alone, thus transforming our inner world.

Perhaps the evolution that comes from this uncertain time will be the discovery that a global time-out was our necessary next step in evolving into full human beings who are more than what catches our attention on the outside. Maybe we'll connect with our own soulfulness and realize that all of us have it. Maybe we'll discover that our soul enjoys more rest and less ambition: maybe we'll find out that just existing makes us just as worthy as when we were productive. When you get clear in your own soul, you wake up to seeing the soul in others.

Perhaps this will be the next step in our evolution as a species, wherein we find that the peeling away of our identity as consumers and achievers helps us to survive more happily, as we learn to connect soul to soul. Maybe we're on track to becoming more authentic in spite of ourselves.

If you're not in the middle of an emergency—and God bless you, if you are—see if you can stop for a moment and hear the whole Earth sighing. Maybe it's relieved at the stopping; and maybe your soul is, too.

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