Embracing Uncertainty During Uncertain Times
Embracing Uncertainty During Uncertain Times
Of all the tenants of collaborative practices, the concept of being comfortable with uncertainty has been a concept that has continuously shown up in practice as well as my daily life. As a matter of fact, during a recent International Certificate in Collaborative Practices workshop, the subject of being comfortable with uncertainly reared it’s ironic little head. As a Collaborative-Dialogic practitioner, I had always felt intrigued and allured by the idea of being comfortable with uncertainty. There seems to be something romantic and almost poetic about the idea of living in the moment and experiencing every conversation as a new and unique experience. I’ve always enjoyed the process of letting conversations unfold organically.
This year has tested my ability to become comfortable with uncertainty in many ways. As the death toll associated with COVID-19 continues to rise along with racial tensions, I’m beginning to question how I’m coping with the same uncertainty that I once embraced. Blaring news reports about our nation declaring war on COVID-19 and racism fill the air as I struggle to make sense of this “new normal.”
As I reflect about the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and a host of others who have gone before them, I become filled with uncertainty. Some days, the thought and fears of being surrounded by an invisible enemy that may threaten to take me away from my family is a bit overwhelming. Perhaps, because it is quite familiar. This is not the first time I’ve felt this way.
Allowing myself to embrace uncertainty is certainly not a new concept for me. When I think of my previous relationships with uncertainty, I think of my past life as an enlisted Army soldier. My memories often drift back to the long days and nights I spent convoying through the sweltering desert of Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
During my first deployment, I was a newly frocked sergeant E-5. I was bright-eyed and eager to learn and grow as a new leader, yet scared to death of making mistakes that would compromise the safety of my soldiers. As I wobbled unsteadily in an old clunky unarmored vehicle, I stared ahead of me, into an uncertain future.
Some days I stared in silence, longing for the two plump, curly haired little girls I had left behind. At the time they were only eighteen months and three years old. “Mommy will be back. I’m going away to fight the bad guys.” I told them as I swallowed back the tears that threatened to escape from my eyes. Even as I tried to reassure them, I knew that if I didn’t make it back, there was a good chance they would not remember me. I thought of them often. Especially, as we rode through the smaller towns, tossing candy and snacks from our MRE packages to the tiny dust covered children as they stood along the road side, begging for food. They greeted us with cheers and a familiar thumbs up sign that told us we were welcomed there.
In that moment, at least in my mind’s eye, we meant certainty to the Iraqi people. We symbolized hope. I felt my fear of uncertainty slowly fade into a warm reassuring smile as I allowed just a bit of my caution to fade. As we continued our journey, I began to make peace
with the thought that no matter what lie ahead, it would be okay. Most of us were born into an existence where we were cared about and planned for as infants. Somewhere along the way, we discover that life is uncertain. We learn to live in the moment. As Harlene Anderson has said, “We are not born to be uncertain, but in many ways I think we learn to be uncertain.”
2020 has definitely been a year full of uncertainty. It has been a year that has challenged some of us in ways that we would have never imagined possible. It has been a year that reintroduced me to the lessons that my three tours in Iraq had taught me. One lesson being that life is precious and fragile at the same time. There are times when we may not necessarily be able to control the outcome and must trust the process. Another lesson is that family is important to me. I must slow down, learn to take time to laugh out loud and enjoy the little things in life that I often neglect to see. The final lesson is to care for and protect others around me, especially those who are more vulnerable.
As I journeyed through the desert, I remember feeling immersed in fear at times. Knowing that my fellow soldiers had my back and were just as frightened as I was, that gave me the courage I needed to be okay with uncertainty that lie ahead. As we approach the remaining months of 2020, each of us navigating the daily challenges of our somewhat parallel existences with a substantial amount of uncertainly, I hope that we will all remember that we are not alone.