At the beginning of March, I had a one-on-one session with one of the top Enneagram teachers in the country. Being a close friend to the couple who runs the primary Enneagram group in Austin, Marion Gilbert arrived for a weekend of sessions with people who are trying to navigate our wild world while oftentimes using outdated personality protocols to do so. My session was at 8am on Saturday morning, which is early for me, but, nevertheless, I showed up bright and early a full 15 minutes early for my session, eager for my chance to talk with her and soak in her wisdom.
I lead with type 6 which strongly desires and tries to cultivate certainty, above almost all other things in life. The remedy? To sit in uncertainty. To feel the uncertainty. To know uncertainty on a visceral level. And to let it be that way.
When I came out of that session, the couple whose house it was at asked me how my session went.
\”Well, I sat in uncertainty for an hour\” was my response.
\”That sounds horrible\” was theirs.
No one wants to sit in uncertainty. It is very scary. I\’m not a fan. It is uncomfortable and unsettling. There is so much that isn\’t known. There is so much that can go wrong. There is so much doubt. It can be utterly crippling.
For someone like me, it is almost unbearable. I, who feel so uncertain about everything all the time and absolutely HATE that I feel that way. I feel a desperate need to force myself into certainty (even if it\’s unhealthy) — to force a change or a decision or forge a path or make a plan and think, think, THINK my way into some semblance of stable ground. To grab onto anything that feels like a sure thing, whether it\’s a belief system, a person, a tradition or a philosophy — anything that can help me feel tethered, anything that can give me a roadmap of what to do and where to go next.
And because this is my MO, the need to relax this impulse is a huge component of my inner work — there are no guarantees and certainty is (and has always been) an illusion. Truly, a house built on sand.
In less than a month later, COVID-19 has spread across the globe at a rapid rate, causing death and destruction in its wake. We are, in this world, experiencing an unprecedented level of uncertainty and the fear of what our future looks like is currently palpable.
We have been told to stay in our homes and at this time, we don\’t know for how long. No longer able to go out and be in public spaces (all gatherings over 10 people have now been banned), businesses are forced to close, schools are closed, our whole world seemingly has stopped in order to combat this illness.
We are practicing \”social distancing\” to \”flatten the curve\” and slow the spread of the disease so as not to overwhelm the healthcare system, but this means sustained and relentless uncertainty — How long will this go on? What will happen to the economy? When will it be safe to go out? — these questions dominate our airwaves and land with an uneasy flutter in the pit of my stomach.
Undoubtedly, I am one of the lucky ones. I have a job that allows me to work remotely full-time, so my paycheck should not be affected during this time. I live in a big enough house where I can spread out. I have a yard that allows me to go outside and get fresh air. I am able to walk the trails in my neighborhood at the moment, staying far away from my fellow neighbors. I have no children to worry about in terms of child care or schooling. My city is not nearly as bad as other places in the country due to some drastic decisions made early on by our local government. I have the entirety of the internet and streaming services to keep me entertained. I have the capability to talk face to face with my friends and family members via video chats which helps with the feelings of self-isolation. I have my husband here with me, and (so far) I\’ve been able to visit my parents. With the exception of hand sanitizer and toilet paper, we have been able to get all the food and supplies we need to hunker down and weather this storm — which is probably about to get even nastier before it lightens up. Even if I get this illness, I am young enough and healthy enough that it would likely be more of an inconvenience than a full-on life or death health crisis.
Yes, by all accounts, I am very blessed.
But despite all that, I still have to sit in the uncertainty. We all do. I cannot predict what will happen in the coming weeks or even months. I cannot say what the effect of this pandemic will have on our economy, our future social life and the community at large. I do not know the future and from where I sit, I don\’t think anyone else really does either. We are all at the mercy of forces beyond our control and there is nothing left to do but to sit with that fact, dig deep inside ourselves and find that place within you that can withstand any adversity. Because it is there. And keep on keeping on. One day at a time.
It is fitting that my practice a couple of weeks ago was to spend an hour trying to sit in uncertainty — like the universe was giving me a trial run of what I needed to be able to do in order to deal with this situation. Life is interesting like that. Always giving us opportunities to work on whatever it is we need to work on.
My prayer tonight is for all of those who are struggling within this time of uncertainty. For all those who don\’t know how they will survive this seemingly impossible situation. For all those who need a prayer tonight. And for the peace and grace that I will need to sit in this uncertainty for much longer than an hour.