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Coping with ambiguity

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This pandemic is a close encounter with the discomfort of being in-between — unsure of what we have lost and what we are about to find; uncertain if it is a loss or gain — individually, or if we should mourn what we had or prepare for what lies ahead. The dilemma lies in the imperative of planning ahead and the difficulty of planning effectively, as variables abound. Unlike institutional planning, planning as an individual feels doubly stifling as the pandemic has negated foreknowledge of when, how, what of its end and its after effects. This ambiguity bears a great deal of anxiety and discomfort.

Freedom of movement and choice and freedom to experience are the three basic freedoms we take for granted. The pandemic’s deathblow to the first two has stymied freedom to experience that was like an impulse on autopilot. Experiences have always run on the fuel of movement and variety, big or small. Although the loss of big experiences such as holidays and ceremonies have rocked our boat, it is the denial of small experiences — freedom to visit with our loved ones, have a meal with friends, go to a café, movie or a game in the stadium, freedom to walk, run, mingle, make merry — that are hurting us the most.

Can we replicate these freedom measures in small doses in this distanced, locked-up present?

The highlight of our pre-pandemic life was our empowering span of control — to act as we wish is our second nature. In the current status quo, we can recreate control by planning life and events that can be executed in small portions, requiring short planning preludes, since we lack visibility beyond a few weeks. We can initiate experiences therein, re-design the rituals that we most miss, and conduct those in small groups using technology to its every potential. The truth is that smaller, intimate groups build stronger connections as we are more present, more attentive to each one in the circle and can possibly build deeper human understanding and bonding.

Regrets abound

Regrets have run a parallel course along the pandemic — for goodbyes we missed saying, for friends we didn’t meet, for unresolved fights, for those short trips we didn’t plan, for the money we didn’t save up, for the risks we didn’t take... the list is endless. Ironically again, as the pandemic passes, new regrets will rise to the surface — for all that we have not paused to think and act on, during these unhurried months. If this thought gives impetus, can we think of all that we can initiate and renew during this period of in-betweenness?

Days without social contact are opportune to retreat within. Invoking interior movement into activities that we don’t need a partner for, activities that deeply draw us in, that engage and enable creativity and its resultant joy, are worthy companions during social isolation. And while no one is watching, and the world has no big expectations from us, we must remember to expect less from ourselves, not begrudge the lack of doing and movement, and allow the stillness of doing nothing, often.

As we loosen up to escape into things that went out of reach as we grew up — a siesta, daydreaming, a book by the window, chatting with a friend for hours — regrets will give way to quiet fulfilment inside this ambiguous pause.

The writer is a freelance writer, blogger, and life coach. nivedita@lifealigncoaching.com

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2020 11:42:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/coping-with-ambiguity/article32301821.ece

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