Interesting, if true: 3 useful words

head leaning against arm

Interesting, if true: three useful words when facing uncertainty, sorting truth from fiction

Among the most useful 3 words I have practiced over the years I learned from my healing teacher, Jason Shulman  who reports having learned them from his high school science teacher: “interesting, if true.”

These days I find myself forgetting to apply this in two key sets of circumstances.

On the one hand,  I find myself unquestioningly dis-believing and dismissing most of what I hear or read in the news. Too often I forget to remember: “interesting, if true.” 

On the other hand, I find myself unquestioningly believing most of my own thoughts, which this week have tended to the dark, personal, and prosecutorial. This “dilemma” I am up against, (usually in the form of an actual human being), will never change: “it” is, “in fact” unsolvable. This is an old, well-worn` pattern, familiar when I am aware, debilitating when I am not. Too often I forget to remember: “interesting, if true.” 

These are two sides of the same problem

In each set of circumstances some part of me – who is both limited and unacknowledged – masquerades as the whole of me. I have also handed her the keys to the bus and invited her to take the wheel: she steers me this way and that, sides-swiping bystanders along the way.

I have split myself by relegating uncertainty to the outside world, and by embracing the certainty of my own stories. 

I am used to thinking of myself as a nuanced and dimensional human being, so this binary thinking is in itself a distressing phenomenon. I have cast myself in a play with many enemies and no friends or allies.

There are more resourceful options when up against uncertainty

I had to reach back to a piece I wrote three years ago to re-presence three parts of me I need to heed right now.

The one who is willing to learn: to seek out trustworthy enough information, while realizing that in a few days I might as well be prepared to go through that process all over again. Because whether it comes to understanding how the novel Coronavirus spreads and does its damage, how public behaviors are trending, or how the economy is faring – the data is in continuous update mode.

The one who is willing to persist like sunrise and sunset with some mix of bargaining prayers, grief, courage, urgency, helplessness, trust, terror. Who is willing to mobilize inner resources and outer supports. Who discerns, perhaps after having wept, howled, or broken plates.

And the one who is willing to put down all her tools for taming the Uncertain: what is left then is to simply rest my head up against the unknown. Actually rest. Allow myself to be comforted. To relax, physically. Nothing to figure out. No need to listen in the way I’ve thought of listening. No need to open my heart or even be concerned about whether it is open or closed. Neither pattern nor meaning to seek out. An open mouth. No words. Neither are words precluded nor actions hindered. Just my head resting up against the unknown, on a soft, rock-solid shoulder.

A cautionary reminder to myself - and all of us

There is no single way or “right” way to respond to the uncertain and the unknown, there is just our effort to be in relationship to it, and kindness when we are not able to carry that off. 

This stand, I am willing to say, is both interesting AND true.

Fatigue beyond energy expended

blindfolded people walking in a forest

Getting just past the initial shock

The novel coronavirus is a shock to our system, whether we fall ill to it, or fall prey to the ills of avoiding it. We have been adapting our little fannies off. To overnight changes in our habits of communicating, interacting, and tending to one another. Of finding our way as we breathe through fabric.

Shock waves still send us this way and that. Various kinds of fatigue have set in. 

Fatigue beyond any normal relationship to energy expended

In more than two decades of interrupted sleep I have spent middle-of-the-night hours writing poetry, consumed by worry of one kind or another, and  in meditation, prayer or silent movement practice.

These days, weirdly, I sleep soundly. I can take a 2 or 3-hour nap and still sleep through the night. 

While I can find myself energized for a few hours at a time, I am fatigued beyond any normal relationship to energy expended. Some days I am flat out exhausted. 

Telehealth consult with Dr. Google

So I did a telehealth consult. I asked Dr. Google about “fatigue during pandemic” and found that I can check all the boxes for potential causes of my condition:

– fears both practical (income loss) and existential (life-threatening illness)

– grieving interrupted, and complicated by losses both deeply personal and loss of familiarity and certainty 

– quarantine fatigue, formerly cabin fever –  even though I am a serious introvert

– information fatigue, in spite of the stringent limits I place on the frequency and sources where  I get my news

Moral fatigue

Most meaningful -and revelatory – was the decision/moral fatigue factor: the effects of constantly assessing and reassessing benefit to risk for myself and my husband. The moral weight is greatly upped by my awareness of the many “strangers” who have no economic choice but to risk themselves as they maintain  the countless service sectors going that keep our daily lives from truly collapsing. 

Still, life is life: it moves, and it asks us to move

And in the fullness of this fatigue and my craving to hibernate,  I feel a physiological and psychological stirring, to move, an urgency to get out and DO in my preferred ways: change something for the better. One action at a time. And still I continue to entertain hopes of being a “bigger” influence, or part of a bigger change.

Whatever our individual temperaments – and fatigue – these impulses to upward and outward movement are fortified by rising spring energies, flowers in bloom, and the greening of trees. The season that holds us is different. My emotions too want to move up and out of me: anger and irritation. In Chinese medicine these are the emotions associated with the spring season.

So I continue to weigh consequences. In an environment rife with uncertainties and with few trustworthy guidelines, I do my best to discern, consult with good people, draw on my inner resources. I do my best to stay awake.

The societal body too wants to move on, even as our masks threaten to blindfold us

We see this same natural rise of the desire to move at the civic level. As the viral wave flattens, or not, the social and financial stresses of quarantine and isolation prod the societal body too to seek its movement. This takes the form of calls to “open the economy,” “to get back to normal,” or at least to begin to test out what “new normal” might be. And whatever the state of our personal guidelines, the state of our civic guidelines is fragmented, inconsistent, and very much localized. And poorly resourced whether we consider needed supplies, imagination, vision, or spiritual resources.

Let us meet this urge of the societal body by seeking the right questions, not the right answers

And as human beings who are awakening and healing, this is a time to PAUSE and ask ourselves: 

What do we think we know – about ourselves, what we desire, what we fear?

Who we believe we are or are becoming or are meant to be?

How do we locate ourselves in the world?

How we locate the Pandemic in the scheme of human and divine history?

It is more likely to be our questions, than our answers, that shape our lives in the months and years to come.

If we choose to consistently and insistently  lead with these types of questions, our leaders will – eventually – follow.