Leaning into uncertainty, still
Updated: Jun 18, 2021
A year ago, I wrote a somewhat different piece than I normally do, reflecting on life a couple of months into something none of us had ever experienced, and likely what few really ever even imagined. It is true that, depending on age, some of us have lived through other events that are classified as a pandemic but COVID-19 was (and still is) entirely different due to the global impact. Also, I think, due to the highly politicized and divisive ways in which it unfolded.
The challenges of the last nearly year and a half were diverse and far reaching, and certainly not made better by the polarization and errant propagation of “information.”
I mean two things by polarization. First, simply that so many people had very black-and-white views on COVID-19 and the measures put in place to try and slow or stop its spread. From conspiracy theories on where it came from to the belief that it didn’t even exist and everything in between – so many people were adamant both about their view and that anyone who didn’t share such a view was not only wrong but bad. As the world starts to emerge from the pandemic, can we do better? The different opinions on what COVID-19 is or isn’t, was or wasn’t, will persist – can we be more accepting of the fact that people are allowed to have different opinions? That doesn’t mean agreeing with them, it simply means letting it be.
There was also polarized behavior – where some people were doing everything they could to help others get through, and others were putting all their energy into tearing others down. Can we do better here too? Shift more towards just helping anyone that needs to rebuild – whether that be ourself, our neighbor, or someone halfway around the world?
From education and an early career in science, I am both a strong believer and strong skeptic in numbers and data. It is true that numbers don’t lie – but it is also true that you can make numbers say anything you want by how you represent them. I don’t understand why COVID-19 cases and confirmed deaths were nearly always presented as simply numbers rather than incidence – which means comparing the number of cases to the number of people. On this dashboard, for example, which shows data from across the globe the US shows ~33M cases, Brazil ~17M cases, and India ~29M cases. This might suggest that things are “equally” bad in the US and India, nearly twice as bad as in Brazil. But when you take into account how many people live in each of these countries, you find that those numbers mean that ~10% of people in the US had confirmed cases, ~8% in Brazil, and ~2% in India. That’s a very different picture, right? And 2% for India wouldn’t have been as much of an issue if it had been spread out over time – but they had incredibly few cases for the majority of the pandemic and the recent spike makes this number – and their situation – not even comparable to the others. On top of this, layer the fact that confirmed cases rely on people getting tested – which, in turn relies on a desire / willingness to be testing and accessibility to it. These all vary tremendously from state to state and from country to country. Each of these pieces may swing the statistics in different directions. Yet people – individually, in social media, and in the news – have been repeating isolated statistics with a correlated and definitive meaning and this only furthered the polarization. There will still be ‘numbers’ for quite some time so again I ask: can we do better? Can we look for the big picture and not just what an isolated number ‘means’? I, for one, will continue to take all numbers with a grain of salt.
I feel so grateful to live somewhere that has returned, for the most part, to pre-COVID-19 ways. Restaurants, sporting events – full capacity. No more “one way” aisles at the grocery store. Very few people wearing masks, so we can see each others’ smiles. This isn’t the case everywhere. The situation may be very different depending where you live but I’m hopeful that as a world we continue to trend in the positive direction. And I’m also hoping so, so very much that the polarization does not continue related to the vaccine, with discrimination and judgment based on whether people choose or choose not to receive the vaccine. I’ve already heard from a friend that the camp she was planning to send her child to is separating kids that are vaccinated from those that are not. As a temporary measure perhaps it’s akin to the guidelines that still recommend people who are not fully vaccinated wear masks… but it’s a slippery slope to be sure and a bit troubling.
It’s funny – ironic even – that in my musings from a year ago I said “I’m looking forward to hugging my friends, going to a Red Sox game.” Indeed, on Saturday May 29 – the day when pretty much all restrictions were lifted in Massachusetts – we had tickets to the Red Sox game! Purchased well before we know that would be ‘the day.’ It was the first game where maximum capacity was allowable at Fenway since restrictions went into effect. The stadium wasn’t full, but probably about as full as it gets on a super cold (42 degrees!!) and windy day early in the season. I’m not going to lie – it was unbearably cold and I didn’t dress warmly enough. More layers and a blanket would have helped. But I digress… We lasted through 5 innings, the Sox won, and it was so amazing to be out feeling like things were… normal!
In my blog last year, I referenced that we were all in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Perhaps now our boats are further and further away from each other. Some are on the fringes where the weather is calm, the sun even starting to shine. Others are still in the middle of a storm that seems to be gathering force. None of us know if the storm will suddenly switch directions, or intensify again... or – hopefully – fade away. So, yes, the future is still uncertain – what will happen with cases, mandates? How we treat each other?
The reality is: the future is always uncertain.
Lean into the uncertainty. Now and always. Embrace that you can’t predict the future. That’s part of what makes life interesting! Do all you can to control what you can. Make the best plans you are able to, and stick to them as best you can. But always remember that things can be disrupted at any time for an infinite number of reasons so learning to roll with it goes a long way to increasing resilience and joy. And increasing resilience and joy is always a good thing!
Each individual is unique – this is why I love working 1-on-1 to help you find ways to create beautiful, dynamic balance in your life! If you are interested in a discovery session to learn about working together, please contact me.