About a decade ago, I took piano lessons for the first time. It went pretty well for the first couple of months. My instructor gave lots of positive feedback but pushed me forward at a pace that my middle-aged, busy mom self found pretty relentless. Perhaps she was equating my brain’s plasticity with that of the college students with whom she spent most of her working hours, and my practice hours with those of students attending a music-based school. At any rate, when I progressed to needing to make my two hands do completely different things at the same time, there was a train wreck in my brain. I could actually feel and hear it.
This year has made me feel that way – over and over and over again. It has eroded my creativity, motivation, enthusiasm, and energy. Knowing that this year especially, we are so fortunate to simply be employed and healthy, makes me not want to say anything that could be construed as complaining. Hence being stuck.
A few things have helped… Our cats provide lots of entertainment, purrs, and kitty hugs. Completing projects around the house makes me feel somewhat productive when I’m not accomplishing my primary goals. Sewing masks for family and friends has been a good distraction that was also useful. Journaling gives me space to write whatever’s on my mind with no editing, either pre- or post-writing. Talking to friends when I can’t see them is a balm to my soul. Learning a new programming language has been an absorbing pastime that keeps my mind focused.
In The Upside of Stress, research psychologist Kelly McGonigal details that the way in which we view a stressful situation impacts our likelihood of success. If we view something as a challenge, we are more likely to succeed than if we view it as a threat. In an interview about the book, she stated that successful stress management is associated with a significant capacity for uncertainty, and that viewing stress as a growth opportunity is helpful.
I am a planner through and through. Unsolved problems keep me up at night, and although 3AM is an excellent time to deeply and thoroughly ponder just about anything without distraction, it’s not the greatest time for completely coherent thinking. 2020 has already provided many occasions to learn to embrace uncertainty, and it seems like more will follow. Here, then, is an excellent opportunity to both grow and extract something good from this year… so my goal for the coming months is to accept and learn to welcome the uncertainty.
What tools help you with uncertainty?