People who have a need to control are having a very difficult time these days. So many things are outside of our control. They really always have been, but we have sometimes been under a delusion that we had more control than we actually have had. Not so lately. There are so many things that have happened in the past year that we could never have predicted, and that have taken away any illusion of control that we might have had. One of the results is the need to get more comfortable with ambiguity. Ambiguity, the unknown, results when we cannot anticipate with any certainty what is going to happen next. That is exactly where most of us are, not being able to anticipate with any certainty what will happen next.
The most obvious happening we have experienced is COVID. We cannot see the end in sight. Our daily lives have been disrupted by this pandemic and we do not know how long it will last. It seems that we are at least months away from any widespread solution to this, such as a vaccine. In the meantime, we will experience very different Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. Many of us are physically distanced from our extended families in a manner that we have not been before during holidays.
Additionally, many people are struggling financially. Also, we should not forget that many people have family members that have suffered from COVID, some who did not survive the disease. COVID has disrupted our lives to varying degrees, but we have all been affected. The ambiguity that is still with us as a result of this pandemic makes our daily lives feel out of control, and they are.
Then there is the recent presidential election. Whether your chosen candidate won or lost, or whether you believe we do not yet really know who won or lost, the ambiguity involved in still having a country so divided continues to threaten our sense of stability. Even when the decision of who has been duly elected as our next President is known, the division in our country will still be with us, and we do not know for how long. Regardless, we have to go about our daily lives trusting that the wheels of our government will take us where were need to go. The ambiguity involved in this can create a lack of trust in our institutions that will make it difficult for all of us.
In addition to those mentioned, you have your own list of happenings outside of your control. Some are dealing with serious illnesses, some even death, not related to COVID. Some are dealing with job losses, not knowing how they will support their families. Some families have been broken apart; the stress created by the other happenings being the last straw in already fragile relationships.
We should not fail to recognize that there have also been positive happenings. Babies have been born. Some have been cured from serious illnesses. Engagements and weddings have happened, and others are planned. Some families have gotten closer and stronger, choosing to stay together. But even the positive happenings, when we feel they are outside of our control, create ambiguity. The ambiguity created from positive happenings is more desirable than that created from negative happenings, but both create a level of stress that can be difficult to manage.
So, what can we do during these times that there is so much outside of our control? When thee is so much we can’t control, it is even more important to focus on what we can control. What we can control is our attitude and behavior. These are always within our control.
During difficult times it is very important to insulate our hot buttons, those things that get under our skin, and that can create a negative response in us. People need our best at these difficult times, as hard as that can be. We need to doing whatever we can to stay centered and calm. Recognizing that our loved ones will remember what we say in moments of anger, even if they forgive us our outburst. Once harsh words are spoken, they can’t be taken back. It is especially important for parents to show their best to their children during these times. Our children get their sense of security and stability from the adults in their lives, especially their parents.
Our behavior needs to stay positive, as positive as possible. We should remain productive. One of the positive benefits of COVID is the recognition of how meaningless some of our “stuff” is. Now that we have been home for longer periods of time, we are now clearer about what matters, and what doesn’t. This can help us transform ourselves from people of consumption to people of creation. Doing so is not easy, but easy is not what we are called to. The lessons of this time should not be wasted on us, we should embrace them.
The attitudes and behaviors that we can control are an important focus for our attention. There is not one road map for all of us in this regard. We need to spend time going within to figure out which attitudes and behaviors are most important for us to control. If we do, we can manage the ambiguity in a manner that allows us to be our best.