Many of us are struggling in some kind of way. You may be noticing more anxiety, a constant low-grade level of stress, irritability, anger or sadness. I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone and it’s a normal reaction to uncertainty. Humans don’t do well with uncertainty and living in limbo with all of the drastic changes to our everyday life it’s causing us to feel very “off-balance”. We look for coping mechanisms to ease the uncomfortable feelings. For some it’s food, alcohol, shopping, television, or scrolling through endless hours of social media or YouTube videos. Whatever your choice of drug is—it’s only masking the feelings.
I remember shortly after my divorce, I spoke to a counselor about my son who had been struggling in school. He was always a good student but his grades were slipping and he seemed to lose focus. The counselor told me that often kids struggle more when they sense their parents are splitting up more so than when the divorce actually happens. The reason for this is that children struggle more with living in limbo and the uncertainty of the unknown than with the harsh reality. I saw this in all three of my kids. We all walked around in a fog trying to normalize our everyday lives when we knew inevitably…everything was about to change. We didn’t know how or when but our family was being ripped apart at the seams and we were trying to hold the stitching together. Once we knew there was no way to mend the pieces of fabric together we let go and released the pain. Usually on one another.
When you use an example on a micro-level, it helps us to understand it on the macro-level. The micro-level example is the child witnessing their parents going through a divorce. The macro-level is the response to a global pandemic. Right now, we are uncertain of what the future will bring just like the child who worries about their parents splitting up. We sense the tension all around us. A slow boil that is rising to the top. We know that things will change forever and adjusting to the new normal causes the resistance to the change. We lash out at those closest to us because fear induces insecurities. We can’t see past our own point of view because our brain chemistry causes us to have knee-jerk reactions to our primal emotions. That primal fear causes us to look for answers and solutions but there are no answers or solutions. Uncertainty causes us to feel unsafe which causes us to shift into survival mode and our senses are heightened. Emotions run high. Our hurt causes us to hurt others. Before we know it we are easily triggered fighting over issues we don’t have the answers to but we stand firm on our own belief systems.
Just like the husband and wife going through a divorce. Neither one is right and neither one is wrong. We just see things from our own perspective and expect the other person to see them too. Problem is…they never will. You’re fighting a losing battle. Another example of this is the Black Lives Matter Movement. Cops see it one way and the BLM supporters see the other. We fail to see each other’s perspectives and make necessary change so therefore, the fight continues and no one wins.
The same goes for education and the re-opening of schools (which I happen to work in and let me tell you it’s a hot mess). Teachers are in fear of having to go back to school because of the uncertainty of getting sick and not knowing the best way to educate all kids while keeping them from spreading the virus. Administrators do their best to keep everyone safe and make accommodations for class size, schedules, and PPE while having ever-changing directives thrown at them on a daily basis. Leadership changes the rules and procedures expecting everyone to fall in line then we’re back to square one having to re-configure the entire school year. Parents are confused and frustrated because they don’t know what’s going on and are angry because they feel they are being left in the dark. So who is right or wrong in this impossible scenario? Everyone! It’s a cluster fuck of uncertainty and we’re all losing our shit. That is the bottom line.
We all need to take a deep breath and stop pointing fingers and over-reacting. Try to put yourselves in the shoes of another person and find compassion—if possible find understanding. I remember doing this after my divorce feeling exhausted with the battle of who did what to who—wanting to be right. I put down the bullet point list of all the reasons why he was wrong, I was right, and I found compassion instead of blaming him. I realized he did the best he could and never meant to hurt our family. Everyone makes mistakes. We don’t have to excuse them or justify their actions we just need to find compassion and forgiveness so that we can find peace.
We all react to uncertainty in different ways but it’s never with calm understanding. It is typically reactive and full of self-righteousness. Take a moment to reflect on how you’ve been reacting lately and see if you can make a shift in consciousness. Recognize your emotions and the vices you use to mask them. Sit with the tense emotions that come up and ask yourself how can I have more compassion and understanding. I’m not very good at this myself, but I try really hard to practice it when I’m feeling overwhelmed. We are all overwhelmed right now and it is collective unrest from the unknown. We will be alright. We will get through this storm but we have to practice higher-level thinking and find common ground. Let’s not let this tear us apart. If we do, we are all lost in the uncertainty.