An abstract noun we’ve seen and heard regularly over the last three months is “uncertainty.” It’s one of those vague words you can’t touch, smell, or break down by chemical composition, but you sure can feel it.
It drives people nuts that there is no certainty about what will happen both short- and long-term with this coronavirus. There are so many questions that need to be answered:
Will the summer heat help stifle it?
Will a vaccine be available sometime late this year or next year that will assure us that if we test positive for COVID-19, a shot or pill can be taken that makes it go away?
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Will the loss of business, or the loss of a job, forever destroy our confidence that a brighter day is on the horizon?
It’s somewhat surprising that uncertainty is so prevalent in the minds of all of us. It’s not like it’s a new emotion. Everything about our daily lives is uncertain, and we learn to deal with it. There is no certainty that although we might be vibrant and energetic today, our lives and our health condition can change tomorrow. Every time I read about a sudden death, it occurs to me that the person who died was probably preoccupied with relatively trivial thoughts five minutes before the tractor-trailer ran over him. “Will my dry-cleaning be ready this afternoon?,” “What am I going to fix for dinner?,” “Is that new tick medicine working on my dog?” … then … Boom! … and it’s over.
Of course if we dwell on uncertainty it will turn us into a statue like Mr. Freeze, and we won’t be able to accomplish a fraction of the goals we’ve set forth. So we deal with it. How well we deal with it in large part determines our paths in life.
Those who worry or fret about the fragility of their day-to-day condition will be impeded from leading full lives. Those who accept that there are thousands of conditions we can’t control are more likely to lead happy and fulfilling lives. There’s a clear balance that must be achieved between uncertainty and certainty. Those who are too sure of themselves and take that attitude towards everything they undertake are as unappealing, if not more so, than nervous Nellies who fret over every little detail in their lives.
I’ve never been one to consume books about philosophy or spiritual cleansing, but my 24-year-old son devours New Age tomes like double-filled Oreos. Because his books are always left behind when he returns to his home in Santa Fe, I find myself reading them from time to time. And they’ve taught this old dog some new tricks.
Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” is one I keep on a nightstand. Here are two pearls from that book:
• “Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place.”
• “Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find you’re here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.”
With the clouds of uncertainty that have hung over us these past few months, I’ve taken Tolle’s advice and chosen the third option. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is nothing I can do about the spread of this uncaring virus, so I’ve accepted it totally, with common sense precautions.
I wear a mask. I wear gloves when I have to handle anything outside the keyboard I’m currently mauling. I limit the unnecessary places I would visit in calmer times. I’ve also chosen to do what I can to fix the insides of my deeply flawed body and demeanor.
Those are the best stopgaps I can use to stave off that dreaded condition known as uncertainty. Of that I am certain.