Gifts from a Pandemic #13: We Are Learning to Navigate Uncertainty

I woke up, looked up at the ceiling and for a moment, thought everything was normal.

I had been in such a deep sleep that as I stretched by body, listening to the birds chirping outside our window, for a split second, I forgot.

Then slowly, it was as if I was seeing it all with fresh eyes.

Borders closed.

Schools closed.

Corporations shut down.

Masks, gloves and sanitizer recommended wherever we go.

And it was almost summertime.

Blink. Blink.

As I lay there in the morning light, trying to get my bearings, it was as if I was caught in some weird sort of twilight zone.

My mind was back in March 2020, and my body was in May 2020.

I felt a bit like Marty McFly in the movie Back to The Future who was hit by a car after having been unexpectedly transported 30 years into the past.

There was that split second of relief as he woke up after the accident and thought maybe it had all been a bad dream.

Until he realized it hadn’t.

So, here we all are.

Welcome to Summer 2020.

Lots of people on social media have been posting about the stages of quarantining.

First, family time.

Second, zoom calls with long-lost friends.

Third, baking and creative projects.

Fourth, where I think we are now:

Limbo.

How Do You Do Limbo?

The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines limbo as a “state of uncertainty” or “an intermediate or transitional place or state.”

The more leaders open things up according to completely differing philosophies, the more each of us have to figure out how we are going to continue to protect ourselves and our families, on our own.

That’s the uncertainty part.

Discernment in times like this involve a lot of pushing away from what we don’t like, calling it wrong, trying to reassure ourselves that our truth really is the truth.

It’s natural to get a little stressed out when we are left to figure things out on our own.

When the stakes are high, as they are with this virus, people can get anxious, self-righteous and nervous as hell.

Kind of goes against the whole unity and singing kum-ba-yah feeling we had going for a little while there.

We’re like toddlers trying to figure out what to wear from an overflowing closet.

Sometimes we have a tantrum because it’s just too much.

There is a reason they say too many variables are not necessarily a good thing. Confusing. Anxiety-provoking.

Decision-making fatigue is real.

When we’re trying to solve a problem we’ve never had before, but really don’t know what the hell we are doing, things can get messy, especially when other people are emotionally charged too.

Our All-In-This-Together Feeling is At Risk

The sad thing is that as we are left to figure things out for ourselves, our sense of empathy and togetherness that had been such a source of strength and unity suddenly feels as if its on shaky ground.

How we navigate this next phase will be important.

We are all liable to have some pretty rocky moments.

Our actions are so often an attempt to protect ourselves emotionally from how stuff “out there” makes us feel inside.

We all have moments of wanting to push our pain away so much that we push away others instead.

But then, that’s life isn’t it?

Which brings me to the next unexpected gift of this trying time.

We are all getting a lot of practice with feeling our stuff, sitting with uncertainty and facing the one truth that we all know but would prefer to deny.

That truth is that we truly never know what is going to happen next, or what decision is really “right.”

Even in the best of times.

All we can do is honor our own intuition, and do our very best to stay with what is happening in each moment.

This is the wild new world in which we now live.

No one said limbo was comfortable.

Somehow, however, through it all, the more compassionate we can be with ourselves, the more intact our humanity will be around the world.

Coming Out of the Chrysalis

As many of us prepare to slowly start to exit our secure shelters for the first time, we are vulnerable and we know it.

Much like the chrysalis that will eventually become a butterfly, we are just starting to sense a little crack in the protection between ourselves and the outer world.

This act of coming out, emotionally and physically, is a magical, terrifying, dangerous time.

Anything can happen.

Times of transition invite wonder and dread all at the same time.

All we can do is try to keep the faith.

Although we don’t know what is coming, we can choose to believe in a bright future.

Something beautiful is going to come out of this harrowing time.

We just don’t now what yet.

12 Tips To Help Us Navigate Limbo

Here are twelve tips I’ve been trying to remember as I’ve been struggling with navigating this new world of limbo (a.k.a Life):

  1. Have a self-care practice. Meditate. Exercise. Eat well. Care for yourself emotionally.
  2. Surround yourself with people who love and understand you, and who respect and honor your chosen way of proceeding.
  3. Be on the lookout for unsuspecting predators, people who may be filled with anxiety and may accidentally jeopardize your well-being because they are so caught up in their own emotions of the moment.
  4. Take your time. Trust your process. Rushing at a moment of vulnerability is rarely a good thing. When we rush, sometimes, we have to go back and start again.
  5. Take periodic breaks or time-outs.
  6. Be compassionate toward yourself and your own vulnerability. Tend to it. Stay with yourself through the hard stuff. Do what you need to do to feel emotionally safe.
  7. Stay focused on your own process, what you value and what you want most to create for yourself in this moment and in the future.
  8. Remember that even if they don’t show it or don’t know it, every single person on the earth is absolutely feeling big feelings right now, and is also vulnerable.
  9. Even when we have differing opinions about the best way to walk on the world right now, remember, there is no way around the fact that we still are all going through this difficult time together.
  10. Maintain hope and optimism. When things look the ugliest, they are often about to become the most beautiful.
  11. Remember the act of coming out, birthing something new, and transcendence never happens the way we think it should or is supposed to, but it still happens.
  12. Stay with yourself. Keep moving, slowly, at whatever pace and in whatever way works best for you. As the saying goes, the only way around is through. No matter what, limbo can’t be skipped.

The good news is, the skills we practice now will no doubt come in handy in the future, because limbo is what life really is, and will always be.

We all really need to know what we are learning right now.

“If we gradually increase our capacity to be present with our pain and the sufferings of the world, we will surprise ourselves with our growing sense of courage.”

~Pema Chodron (from her new book Welcoming The Unwelcome)

Wishing you moments of miraculous beauty, even during these uncertain times.

Copyright © 2020, Laurie Smith, All rights reserved. Photo credits: Mirek Kijewski & Jet Cat Studio/Shutterstock

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