Navigating Uncertainty During Pandemic
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Albert Camus once said that, “in the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” This pandemic can be thought of as the depth of winter. Since it began, I’ve been searching for my own invincible summer.
Initially, I thought the answer would be found in what I could accomplish during this quarantine. I will get “so much done!” Although the disease and certainly our understanding of it are different now, history has described previous epidemics. In 1606 as a result of the bubonic plague, London theaters shut down in a version of quarantine. During this downtime, Shakespeare wrote three of his best plays (King Lear, Antony & Cleopatra, & Macbeth) while social distancing. During the same year, Isaac Newton’s university was closed, and he spent that year becoming the world’s foremost mathematician.
Despite my best intentions, like so many people I’ve been disoriented, anxious, and irritable. After living through this quarantine for over 2 months now, I am tired, very tired. The combination of uncertainty and the pace of COVID-19 news throwing curve balls into every day leaves many of us overwhelmed.
I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I planned. Most people are struggling and may be doing things to comfort themselves that aren’t really helpful, like eating or drinking too much, watching tons of TV or Youtube videos, staying up too late, and losing touch with the things that matter. In fact, in times like this, we may be losing touch with ourselves and our values.
Even before COVID-19, life was continuously evolving. It was just that we could count on some basic things like friends, routines, lifestyles, and getting outside. Thanks to the Coronavirus, we have suffered the loss of friends and freedom alike. These fundamental changes have made us more painfully aware of the uncertainty of life. The way we live our lives has changed, a lot! In fact, life may never return to the way it was. Like so many things these days, it remains uncertain.
Although we are starting to see some signs of recovery, each of us continues to navigate the complicated and devastating impact of this pandemic. These traumatic few months have touched almost everyone in every country on the planet. How we can recover is not at all clear.
I’ve come to realize that perhaps a better gauge of my internal “invincible summer” is the ability to adapt as the situation calls for. The quarantine has left us with quiet time alone with family or ourselves. We usually have busy lives with little time to self-reflect. Most of us have had more quiet time than we know what to do with. We are now left with an opportunity to rebuild our lives incorporating new lessons from the last few months.
The Chinese symbol for crisis contains 2 symbols; one represents danger and the other opportunity. It is the perfect metaphor for the world right now. How we view the next months and years of change is up to each of us: dangerous problem or opportunity.
Taking some of our quarantine time to develop greater self-awareness is key to re-imagining and rebuilding our future. Jung’s quote at the beginning of the article reminds us that our needs and feelings are ever-present and effect our lives, whether we realize it or not. Devoting this time to gain clarity about what matters most enables us to navigate our lives in a personally meaningful direction.
Perhaps being patient with ourselves, prioritizing friends and family, remembering the activities that truly excite us, and making the time to follow our passions are elements we must reinvigorate to survive this gut-wrenching pandemic as the quarantine days of spring turn into those of summer.