Yesterday it was over 60 degrees here in the DMV.
Today there are several inches of snow on the ground and a howling wind.
What a difference a storm makes.
The weather is a really good teacher about what it means to embrace uncertainty and change. Even though humans have learned to track and predict the weather, we still cannot change it. We can anticipate it and prepare for it, throw salt on the ground and buy more bread. But it’s coming and we won’t know the impacts until the car is buried and the heat goes out.
Right now I do not know if I have school tomorrow. I am waiting for an email to tell me if we have the staffing capacity and appropriate protocols to operate safely during a COVID variant surge (and now snowstorm). The last day of school before break was canceled because of rising cases amongst our students. Nearly everyone was vaccinated. Many had gotten a booster. Still, Omicron has stormed the citadel and caused chaos in our community. Last night, I also did not know if my son would have school today. The local Facebook groups were fretting over sending students and staff back into unknown conditions, with casing rising and hospitals filling up. We thought the choice was whether to expose our family to illness, but then the district closed due to snow, and we could stop the calculations.
How am I getting through this? By developing an extreme tolerance for uncertainty. Truly, this has been the gift of the pandemic. I saw a billboard recently that said: They who are flexible shall not be bent out of shape, and now that’s my motto. I am learning to make peace with the limited choices I am offered in any given moment without lamenting the lack of more or different choices. I am learning to make the choices (from the given set of choices) that bring me the most peace. I am leaning into ease over angst. I am melting into a more malleable me. Go with the flow? I am the flow.
Life is a vulnerable voyage, and ours is a culture that persistently deludes itself into believing that we are in control. We gather up all of the things we think we can put under our thumbs and wrestle with them vigorously, while doing what I call “Covid Calculus” or slapping on a sticker that says New Year’s Resolution. We berate ourselves and each other for failing to appear like decisive and deliberate sea captains capable of pulling the ship safely into port no matter what. The stress and anxiety are palpable and contagious.
But what if those failures to appear in control were really indicative of better sailing? Lately I have begun explaining what I mean when I say, I’m fine. Because most of the time, I am actually fine and that is a genuine answer to the question of how I am doing. When I say, “I’m fine”, what I mean is that “I am sufficiently equipped to weather the challenges ahead”. I know there will be challenges ahead AND I believe I will ultimately be able to deal with them. At the risk of over metaphorizing (which I maybe don’t believe is possible) we cannot control this ocean of life and the ship we have is the ship we have and we steer the best we can. I might get wet, I might capsize, I might swim, I might sink, I might become a mermaid. While we will generally have choices (desirable and undesirable choices), we will rarely have control. Coming to terms with this was at first depressing, but then, somehow accepting I had less control made everything more manageable. I had space to consider multiple outcomes, and a lot of them, while not optimal, aren’t so bad. Even more surprising, is that the bad ones, while still bad, feel more manageable too.
Why is that? What makes any of this better?
Each other. If I have a ship, then you, my friend, have an extra ship. Let’s be a fleet, or hell, a whole armada! Community makes the odds of survival a little better. In the face of uncertainty, a choice we can make is to check for extra life jackets, turn on a search light, and look for those sinking. Or if we are sinking, to sound a horn for help. We are not guaranteed to make it out alive (in fact, we are guaranteed to not make it out alive), but sailing together in any weather is better than being out here drifting, or even drowning, alone.