The Answer

“Tell us what to do.” We all just want someone to tell us what to do right now, in this time of great uncertainty. And when the answer comes—“stay home”—we are doubly unnerved. In normal circumstances, we all have lists of things to do at home when we have extra time. But these are not normal circumstances, and those lists vie for attention with the urge to “do something.”

The “something” we long for is an action that will reduce or eliminate the anxiety, the ambiguity, that accompanies the understandable panic we’re in. We want something to put our minds at ease, to give us the sense that we are governing our lives toward certainty of one type or another. We want to know that as we place one foot in front of the other, over and over and over, we will reach a peace-filled destination.

For me, there is an inner grasping that leads to outreach of unknown value. My focus is scattered. I struggle to sit quietly with myself; if I attempt to consciously do nothing, I only want to sleep. Avoid it all. Yet I can easily offer assurance and advice to others, and my calm feels quite authentic—maybe because I am witnessing lovely happenings in my own life that are unprecedented. Maybe my grasping is actually a response to this surprising and bizarre turn of personal events.

Feeling happy when the world is flipping off its axis is surreal. Seeing possibility and opportunity, having hope, feeling confident, makes for a different shade of ambiguity. So like the shrewd investor who snatches up stocks at rock-bottom prices, who buys great properties at near-zero interest rates, I am tip-toeing forward. Sure, I don’t know the true value of my outreach efforts and my focus scatters in proportion to the unexpected attainment of things desired but thought impossible—true love, new vocation. But maybe this is what “sitting with ambiguity” looks and feels like.

It stands to reason that this is the best time to trust myself. This is the best time to push forward with my own agenda, not waiting for invitation or permission or instruction. Keep the routine when it feels right and ditch it when it doesn’t; consistency be damned. There is no outcome with which I have no frame of reference—I have seen it all before. Poverty, loneliness, lovelessness, sickness, betrayal, pain, despair, even death. Safety from any source is an illusion; I might as well stay awake and keep doing the next right thing.