Facing Uncertainty with Curiosity
Author: Rebecca Bryan
June 30, 2020
COVID is a thief. As 2019 ended, I was anxious about
2020…for how busy my calendar was going to be! I was just starting a new
position at Rutgers; my consulting business, through which I offer training on
how to become trauma-informed, was taking off too. I was scheduled to work two
PCUSA Credo conferences, had travel plans to both Malawi, Africa (for a
wedding) and Germany (for our daughter’s graduation) …and the year would
culminate in our son’s wedding in December.
It’s all gone. Okay, not the training webinars – those seem
to be more popular than ever, seeing how everyone is feeling traumatized these
days – but the steady job, the travel, my husband’s job, too …gone. Our son’s
wedding is postponed for a year. These losses come on top of ubiquitous losses
of the pre-pandemic life I know I took for granted, the most significant loss
for me being weekly in-person worship and singing in choir.
What I am left with is uncertainty and grief. In the
webinars I lead, I often teach the “hand model of the brain” (thank you, Dan
Siegel): if you hold your hand straight up in the air, your wrist is the spinal
cord, the base of the hand is your survival brain, fold your thumb in and
that’s your emotional (limbic) brain, then fold your remaining 4 fingers down over
your thumb and that’s your rational (cortex) brain. The brain wires first and
foremost for survival, so if it picks up on a threat, your survival brain
hijacks your rational brain and you “flip your lid” (lift your 4 fingers back
up straight to experience this).
For me, living with uncertainty is living with my lid
flipped most of the time – functioning out of my emotional brain (less
patience, less bandwidth for others), or my survival brain (feeling agitated,
muscles tense, difficulty with focusing). I know ways to cope – I’ve been blogging about resiliencepractices
, for goodness sake – but some days they just aren’t cutting it.
And that’s when I remember:
Be still and know
That I am God.
We are in a global season
of change, and my faith teaches me the universal pattern of it. Richard Rohr,
in his book, The Universal Christ, writes, “Resurrection is another word for
change, but particularly positive change – which we tend to see only in the
long run. In the short run, it often just looks like death.” He goes on to say,
“Jesus’s first incarnate life, his passing over into death, and his resurrection
into the ongoing Christ life is the archetypal model for the entire pattern of
creation. He is the microcosm for the whole cosmos, or the map of the whole
journey, in case you need or want one.”
Give me that map!
Remind me that what I perceive as death is in fact a part of the larger pattern
of life. And that the death of our old ways is necessary if resurrection is to
occur. I feel called to let go in deep trust that this tide
will pass, and the new way will become clear. I am reminded of this pattern as
I watch my garden grow, watch the sun rise and set, even in how we die a little
death by going to sleep each night, trusting we will rise in the morning.
I have no idea how
the rest of this summer will play out, let alone fall and winter. But my faith
nudges me to be curious, rather than fearful. And if I still myself and sit with
that, I feel my lid come incrementally back down.