18 months ago, we were all thrown collectively into a big pot of unknown. A space of newness, of alien characteristic, of unprecedented times. We sheltered in our homes, and were forced to reckon with our minds, with our lives as lived and constructed thus far, with all of the ingrained shoulds and need tos we had picked up in our years in this life. We were thrown into the fluid space of a universal shrug with a mirror in our hands. Our path to whatever life looks like after rests on how we find our way through right now, how we think of life and talk ourselves into it. So, amidst the viral pandemic upon us now, we find ourselves also within a very correlated pandemic: a truth pandemic.
By a truth pandemic, I am not talking about the presence of differing opinions, and how everything would be right in the world if your Aunt Carol would just understand and agree with your viewpoint. What I am highlighting instead is that very thought, that very need to control the way others move through the world around them. The truth pandemic is our collective, learned, fear-based urge to collapse all opinion, all perspective, all personal choice into one truth, into black/white, right/wrong, truth/lie. It is understandable, absolutely. Truth affords us certainty, and certainty feels good. Certainty feels safe. But certainty can be stifling, it can be confining, it can be restrictive. For too long, we have relied on this certainty, of the government or other bodies holding more societal weight than us, to define our reality for us and set the bar for what is true. The story goes: because they have more power, because they are elected officials, or because they are our parents, or because they are men, or because they have all this money, that they have some higher knowledge of what is true, and therefore we must agree with them. Mother knows best! The scientific research by the big institution says so, and therefore it is truer than anyone else’s lived experience! But does she? Is it really?
Further, the problem doesn’t rest in exactly whose word we’re placing this certainty on, it’s that we are attempting to at all. This inner and outer battle to find certainty is only leading us farther apart. It is not working. When we see that we are all in this space of unknown together, that no amount of money or governmental positioning or parental role give us any truer truth than any other member of society, we can begin to shift that search for certainty to an inner stability instead. When nobody knows anything more than anyone else, what is truth? Where do we look for certainty within an unknown space, in unprecedented times, when we have no guidelines for best next steps?
Here’s the exciting and terrifying answer: we let go of this need for certainty. We stop looking outward for what is true, and instead we turn inward, to find and free what is true for us. We stop trying to make everyone else fit our views, our perspectives, and we trust. We trust that everyone will figure it out for themselves, and that it is not our duty to condense all of our individual viewpoints, opinions, perspectives, life experiences, and decisions, into the paradigm of right vs wrong.
Peace within all of the unknown of the pandemic will come when we realize that there is no one way out of it, and that we already know exactly the next steps to take. They are illuminated for us, always. We just need to look inward, and swim in the outward unknown for a bit. Allow this universal shrug to be, without trying to paint it to match your walls. The stress and resistance of trying to force certainty will make us sick. It is making us sick. The fight to collapse all truths into one certain one, both internally and with the family members/friends/strangers around you, is self destructive and counterproductive.
So, dear reader, relax. Unclench your jaw, stop trying to force certainty, allow people to have their own opinions without judging them right or wrong, and swim in the big pot of unknown with me. Of course, check with yourself first. If this doesn’t feel right, sit with that feeling with open minded curiosity. Follow what feels true for you, and know that you are free to decide either way. The water’s warm, and you are safe, I promise.
Illustration by Stacey Horton