COVID-19 certainly gave us pause. Is still giving us pause – we’re not out of the woods yet – to think about all the things we don’t and can’t know in our world. We’re all learning here. We’re all winging it. No one, not even the experts, can predict exactly what life will become after isolation is over. Will it return to what it was before? Highly unlikely.
I drive for my living, which is great thinking time when I’m writing and figuring out my stuff. I’m between books now though, so I’ve been listening to lots of podcasts. All of them reference ‘these uncertain times’ at some point in virtually every episode. These. Uncertain. Times.
What does that even mean? Isn’t life, generally, just one uncertain day after another? Haven’t humans evolved as a species thanks to uncertainty? When life becomes ‘certain’, is it possibly the case that we cease to learn and grow?
Of course, I do understand what it means, ‘these uncertain times’. COVID-19 has resulted in many people losing their livelihoods, temporarily or indefinitely. That absolutely causes stress due to uncertainty. Psychologists and psychiatrists, and even family and community, are having to practise mental health first aid as loved ones come to terms with lost income, lost purpose, and the loss (real or perceived) of extended family and community, due to lockdown isolation and social distancing. It’s not like we will never see our friends and extended family again. It’s just that we anticipate that everything might be, well, different. And it’s in our nature as humans to fear difference.
One of my go-to podcasts right now (as I attempt to stay motivated in my writing life) is The Creative Penn, presented by writer and novelist Joanna, or JF, Penn. Her positivity is contagious and her energy, seemingly infinite. She talks about the phenomenon of ’emergence’, meaning, that in order to allow creativity and wonder in your life, you have to get comfortable with uncertainty. Afterall, creatives of all disciplines are in the business of taking risks with their work. Think of how a stand up comedian has to read the room, or a method actor has to improvise, in order to do their best work. They must be willing to abandon the plan and allow themselves to flow with the unknown.
I have experienced this in my parenting, work and writing life. The simple practice (in theory rather than reality) of releasing all expectations and giving in to the situation I am in has allowed a kind of ‘genius’ or ‘flow’ or ’emergence’ to arrive and inform my next action. When I’m in flow, nothing else matters but the moment I’m in. Time is irrelevant. Goals disappear from consciousness. Even ‘I’ cease to exist. There is only the act of making, doing, or creating. And it is pure delight.
When my children were little, and parenting was all-consuming, our bedtime rituals were a time of flow, unrushed, improvisational. Sometimes we’d read a book. Sometimes we’d make up a story. Sometimes we’d sing. They are teenagers and adults now, but they still tell me that bedtimes were some of their happiest childhood memories.
In my work, I find immersion in packing groceries as beautifully as I can, taking care to methodically present every element in context, so that when my customer opens their box, they’ll see an array of tantalisingly sensory and nourishing fresh produce and grocery that inspires them to cook creative meals for their families.
In my creative life, I can tap the source when I know exactly what story I want to write, where it begins and where it ends, and what I want my reader to feel as they experience my words on the page or screen before them.
Where we are in Australia, social restrictions imposed to manage COVID-19 are about to be relaxed. Some find this scary, as we still don’t know what future-society will be like and whether things will ever return to how they previously were. Maybe you are struggling with uncertainty because your job or way of delivering your service has had to change. Maybe there is no job to return to now? It’s okay to feel anxious. It’s normal to feel anxious. But if you’re still reading this, I hope the message is clear that whatever you dream might come next for you, and this is your chance to DREAM BIG, whatever that thing is, you’ll have to allow it to emerge for you. And to do that you’ll have to find a safe way to coexist with your fear and uncertainty. It never goes away. Fear just gets less wild, more domesticated, as you acquire your mastery over it. How are you dealing with ‘these uncertain times’?