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2020: The Gift of Uncertainty

Photo by Marlon Trottmann from Pexels

2020 has left me with a jumble of bizarre impressions: heightened emotions over health scares, unexpected absurdities, such as fighting over toilet paper, unusual challenges (no hugging?!) and a lengthy invitation to go deeper and investigate what lurks in the shadows. Ultimately, 2020 has been a meditation on befriending uncertainty, prompting us to readjust our vision and see life for what it is: a fiercely changeable, unpredictable thing that cannot be caged.

It’s human nature to want to tame life, molding it into consistent habits and routines. But as we walk forward tugging and prodding it along, life always manages to slip sideways, refusing to be bullied into our agenda.

This year is a reminder that nothing is certain save our breath, which rises and falls automatically (though one day it won’t). One day is never like the next. This might seem wrong given how so many of our distractions have been taken away, making many days a blur. For many, 2020 has felt like being stuck on a long-distance flight, strapped in and glued to a screen as the plane flies endlessly in circles. They binge watch away precious hours, growing bored, failing to see the vibrant inner life bubbling within them.

Uncertainty is a gift. There’s a beauty and richness to it for every moment is new, and in this newness, pliable and receptive. It has never been otherwise. Uncertainty brings with it the opportunity to reassess the status quo, letting go of how we think things should be, and opening the path to whatever is beginning to manifest. Children know this for they greet life playfully and spontaneously; at times, there are tears, but mostly, they are natural entrepreneurs constantly seeking new opportunities.

But adults forget, expecting life to conform to our projections and desires. This is why uncertainty often unsettles. It triggers anxiety and fear, forcing us to pay attention to what is real, not the mental stories we silently rehearse. Perhaps that’s why we are so fond of systems, knowledge and apps that predict, whether that’s weather or astrology, because we want to know. We want to be prepared. We scrutinize history or theorize to explain away our current unknowns, but what is happening now is new. Uncertainty is always born of the moment.

2020 is a paradox. Our modern world is one of relentless change and uncertainty; technological innovation continually obliterates what we once considered the norm. Now we are being asked to embrace uncertainty again, but it’s getting closer to the core—this time, it’s urgent.

This year has shown that individual, collective and planetary health is connected and the majority of our systems are sick. But as many of us grow restless, pushing again for certainty, we are in danger of pursuing false hope, false heroes and false cures. Rushing to create solutions bolsters the illusion that we will somehow be safe and that life is controllable and certain again.

Life will always be uncertain. Isn’t that the thrill of it? If we knew the outcome of a game before we played it, would we bother making the effort? The danger of wanting to be rescued from what is, however uncomfortable, is you might be willing to give away your power. Or waiting too long, rather than rowing to shore yourself.

Uncertainty is a gift. But one you must unwrap yourself. All things change, it’s inevitable. Let’s hope in 2021 we will be open for the new, rather than insisting on returning to what no longer serves us.

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