Make friends with maybe

Have you given any of your attention to the warnings being put out at senior levels of government and public health?

What I hear reverberating through my news feed is this: The fall could be wickedly challenging, courtesy COVID-19.

I don’t want to say “Brace for it” – because I don’t think that feeling of being gripped, clenched, tight is helpful.

Ready position is always light on your feet, right? It’s lightly balanced, it’s a bit bouncy, it’s soft in the knees and ankles, it’s breathing evenly… So, how to cultivate that light-on-the-feet readiness?

Photo by Elias Maurer on Unsplash

I’ve written before about the idea of cultivating “generative befuddlement”.

Dr Daniel Foor, a psychologist and teacher of practical animism, has recently said that our convictions are becoming increasingly harmful. (We don’t realise how colonized our brains are, how much our values are shaped by the dominant culture, until we do… Maybe it’s good to release our death-grip on our ideas earlier rather than later, to allow space for the possibility of their complete wrongness.)

He suggests that we “make friends with maybe, probably and probably not. Get used to making decisive moves with 70% certainty, and reassess as you go. Embrace the learning that comes from mistakes, and be willing to course correct.”

Does this give you heart palpitations? Does it feel horribly looseygoosey and kind of bullshit? I think if planning, organizing and certainty are important to you, the times we are living in must be terrifying… or at least, incredibly de-stabilising. (I find them to be, and I’m not even a planner-type.) There literally isn’t a moment we can let our brains rest – we’re constantly having to navigate new situations – who can i trust? what information here is the most important? if my kid is sick do I send them to school or not? what can we do about Halloween? There’s just no easy solution. To anything. I think for some of us, that pushes us towards denial. “I’m going to act as if this isn’t even real, as if it’s all overblown, and I’m going to keep doing the things I’ve always done. Because damnit, I like Halloween.”

I have found that I am slowly building my tolerance to this uncertainty by just being friendly to myself. By just acknowledging and noticing – yep, that’s destabilising. That’s uncertain. That’s hard to navigate. Okay, let’s choose this path of action and be ready to re-assess, pivot, rethink, renege, at any time.

Maybe the greatest danger in clinging to certainty, is that it forces us to suppress the doubts, to push things down, that need their own airplay… but as the environment has been trying to teach us for generations, there is no such place as away. You can’t throw garbage “away” and never think of it again, you can’t watch smoke or pollution blow “away” and imagine it no longer impacts life. You can’t push bad thoughts or feelings “away” and have them evaporate.

Acknowledge. Notice. Make friends with maybe. Let’s stay light on our feet.

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