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
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.