More often than not, I am finding myself writing blog posts based off of what I feel like I need to read. I know many write blog posts based on what others might find interesting or helpful, but the more I try to think about ‘what do others want/need to read’ I keep coming back to what do I want/need to write. I of course am hoping there is some magic overlap between what I need to write, and what others want to read- but if there is not, I am letting this serve as my own personal thought organizer. So here are my thoughts when it comes to stepping and prepping for a time of complete uncertainty.
We have all read a million and ten things about COVID-19. We have gotten a lot of solicited, or unsolicited (probably mostly this) advice from others on how they are responding, behaving, and working through this time.
But I am not going to write about COVID-19, because I believe what we are experiencing right now is much bigger than COVID-19.
This pandemic is more than a global health crisis, it is a mental health wake up.
It is human instinct to hesitate when we are presented with something uncomfortable. “Why would I want to step into that which I have no control over?” We wouldn’t often choose a route in which we have no say. That might feel a lot like losing free will- and who would ever choose that? All you philosophers, don’t get me started on whether that is a choice we get to make or not.. I am still grappling with it!
So whether you identify as a Type A person, or you’re much more like myself– Type B — we all have some varying degree of “I need to be able to control X”. In times of uncertainty, that controllable factor, whatever it is/was for you, has now been taken out of your hands.
So what do you do?
Through many times in my life where I have felt as if so many things were out of my control, I have come back to a system that grounds me. It doesn’t necessarily “fix” the problem, but it reminds me that in order to prepare myself to step into uncertainty, I have to be ready for the ultimate challenge- to sit with it.
Before I start from the beginning, I want to tell you the end. Forgive me, for I am a teacher and backwards planning is my ammo. We start with the end goal in mind and work our way back.
So, here’s the end goal: acceptance (or being able to sit in uncertainty).
To accept matters of unpredictability, to accept an unreliable future, I must be willing to sit with uncertainty as if I were sitting with an old cherished friend. And let me tell you, it isn’t comfortable. You must be willing to sit down with a risk, sit down with chance, sit down and accept changeability. I remind myself this: I must be willing to notice how it feels, what it looks like, what emotions it stirs up. I must be willing to be friendly to it, and not turn a cold shoulder.
To get to this point, I have to go through the first two steps, so let’s rewind.
Step 1- Validation.
You need to validate how you feel. Scared? Anger? Frustration? Confused? Anxiety? Sadness? Grief? Joy? Validate everything you feel, especially if you are having thoughts of, “But I shouldn’t feel this way because __________.” Oops, nope. You aren’t even allowing yourself validation. If you are telling yourself you shouldn’t feel a certain way, you haven’t entered step one. So if you need permission to feel, here it is: there is no wrong emotion, ever. Validate how you feel, and possibility opens up.
Step 2- Take action.
If so many things feel out of your control, but you have completed step one by validating how a situation is making you feel, you are ready for step 2– it is time to take action. So ask yourself this, “If X is out of my control, what can I do next?” If your head starts spinning back to, “Well actually I can’t do this, and this is wrong, and why do I still feel this way!?” You haven’t quite yet completed step one. You haven’t validated everything you feel. So go back and be patient.
But if you are in a mindset of, “Ok I feel this way, that is ok. X is out of my control, but what action can I take?” Then congratulations, you are getting there. Ask yourself, “What is my next move?” Map out a plan, write down possible actions, but don’t worry about outcomes. If you are in a state of uncertainty, there is no reason to predict a future that has not yet happened. With uncertainty comes possibility. So, what’s your next move? You’re up. Take action, no matter how big or small the action might feel, it is right.
Step 3- Acceptance.
There is no, “Welcome to the final step!” sign. But you will feel it. It’s a slight shift in the expansion of your breath. It’s a little relief from the weight of the world’s problems. It’s being able to look uncertainty in the eye, and be able to sit with the completely unpredictable circumstance you have been living with.
You have accepted it for what it is, you have validated how you feel, you have taken action, which has led you to more acceptance. It’s a cycle. It’s a forever dance.
I believe that for every step of certainty, there are ten of unpredictability. As soon as you have validated your feelings, taken action, and accepted whatever the outcome may be, you will inevitably be thrown back into a new situation which asks you to complete the same cycle, just with a different name.
So, in the words of Lee Ann Womack, “I Hope You Dance”.
And then I hope you never stop dancing.