TIPS & TOOLS, Article 6: "Being With Uncertainty"
Posted on April 23, 2020 by Lou Romero
Being With Uncertainty
Editor’s Note: We asked the inimitable Lou Romero if he’d be willing to share a few words of wisdom during this odd era of COVID-19. Of late, we have been thinking, reading, and hearing more and more about the anxieties many people feel living in this uncertainty. We hope Lou's words bring you an extra measure of peace today and in coming weeks.
We are called “human beings.”
I want to align my daily DOING with my BEING; the person I say I want to BE. My behaviors are born from a thought or feeling which grows into an intention, behavior, and actions. At age 78, especially during this ‘pandemic’ time, I need a daily reminder of my intentions:
- BE CALM: Focus on positive, hopeful, grateful thoughts that guide my self-awareness, self-talk, behavior, and actions. Have faith and hope that ‘this too shall pass’ and we will have gained greater awareness about our interdependence locally and in the world. Allow time to meditate, pray, read, write, listen to music, and nap.
- BE CREATIVE: Find projects that give me purpose and fulfillment; work on different ways to serve others; learn how to do new tasks; do some things I used to enjoy but haven’t done in a long time; pause to think differently and surface new ideas for dealing with my current reality, both short-term and long….
- BE COMPASSIONATE: Take care of myself first so I can care for others; be kind and patient with myself when I get frustrated with ‘what is’; reach out to family and friends with kindness, knowing that everyone is dealing with uncertainty in their own way; avoid trying to ‘preach’ how to be…be a good listener….
- BE COURAGEOUS: Address what I can control to improve ‘what is’; prepare for unusual situations that may require choices I have never faced before; think about ways to mitigate ‘worst case scenarios’ with courage and confidence.
- And then there is COMMITMENT. How do I know if I am ready to commit to an intention…or am I already committed? Do they remain only intentions? When I definitely commit to a behavior, task, action, or outcome…I feel and think differently. I can actually feel an inner change in my emotions and my sense of urgency.
Years ago, a close friend gave me a plaque about COMMITMENT that reads:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy,
the chance to draw back, always ineffective…
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation),
there is one elemental truth, the ignorance of which
kills countless ideas and splendid plans;
That the moment one definitively commits oneself,
then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that
would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision,
raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen
incidents and meetings and material assistance,
which could not have been dreamt to have come one’s way.
I have learned a deep respect for
one of Goethe’s couplets:
‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.’”
That quote has served as a positive reminder to me when hesitating to go ‘all in.’
Another meaningful, powerful quote that prompts me to be mindful about how I am BEING simply reads:
“There is no happiness that is secure and nothing that does not change.”
This quote (by St. Teresa de Ávila, a 16th century scholar) was presented to me by my wife to commemorate our having beaten prostate cancer in November 1995. We’d vacationed in Spain to celebrate, and one of our favorite stops was Ávila. We found it to be a beautiful place with a charming town square, friendly people, a cathedral in the middle, and nuns’ convent. I have internalized that quote for a quarter-century now. I examine what happiness means to me. Happiness is an enduring sense of inner peace; contentment that I have Purpose, Meaning, Fulfillment, and Spiritual growth in my life.
How do I feel and know when my happiness is fading? What do I do when that happens? I can usually detect when something is changing (or has already changed, now producing a feeling of anxiety). Anxiety disturbs my sense of happiness. When I finally accept that feeling, it prompts me to be introspective about the causes. I often find that I am neglecting one or more of my core values in some way. Once I identify the source, if it is something within my control…I can start making changes and commitments to return to a state of happiness.
Frequently, the Serenity Prayer also grounds me and reduces my anxiety:
“God, grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change,
COURAGE to change the things I can,
and the WISDOM to know the difference.”
I hope this prayer—or any of the other tools I’ve shared here today—might do the same for you during these trying times.
May peace be with you always,