There is a concept I have always liked, although I’ve never studied it.

Tolerance for ambiguity.

Just the phrase makes it, well, unambiguous. Tolerance for ambiguity is an individual’s ability to tolerate ambiguous circumstances or situations. What’s interesting to me is how much people can vary on this characteristic. That’s from someone who, let’s just say, has NO tolerance for ambiguity.

I’ve actually done the measurement scale for this (as I have considered using it in studies and still am…) and found that I have very little tolerance for ambiguity or uncertainty.

This is not at all surprising. I’m not a black and white thinker – believe me, I know that the world is full of shades of gray – but I also know that when I am given the choice, I prefer to at least know what’s going to happen, vs. not having a clue.

I’m sure you can imagine how well I’m dealing with the current global pandemic. To say that we are living in uncertain and ambiguous times is one of the understatements of the year. Not only is there great uncertainty regarding how the virus will affect us in the coming months and years, but we are all dealing with a crazy amount of uncertainty in our daily lives.

For me, everywhere I turn, it seems like I’m faced with more uncertainty and ambiguity. My relationship. My job. My health. My ability to obtain the food that I need and want. Heck, even the weather here in the upper Midwest has been all over the place (60s in March! 20s in April! Gah!).

I’m trying. I’m trying to get through the best way I know – through routine, focus, moving forward even though I may not know where the path will lead. (Let’s get real – I have NO IDEA where the path will lead…)

But some days are harder than others. And that’s when I go down the rabbit hole of spiraling thoughts, and a brain that won’t turn off, and lack of sleep, and limited productivity. Those are the days I just want to toss it all out the window. But instead, I turn back to routine, to the familiar. It’s a source of comfort right now. I know that more information, decisions, ideas, will come eventually. What drives me bonkers is not knowing when that will happen.

So I sit with the ambiguity, rely on my habits and routines, and tell myself that someday I will know how all of these things turn out.

It’s just not going to be today.

“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Serendipity or…

I’ve noticed recently that I am encountering serendipitous situations, or books, or quotes, or… well, any number of things, at just the right time. I’m not saying this well – but I do think that the universe puts what we need at any given moment in front of us – but it is up to us to recognize it, to use it or engage with it or read it or … well, whatever one should do with whatever it is.

I don’t know if serendipity is the right term, but it seems kind of appropriate? This came to mind yesterday when I flew through the last section of “Man’s Search for Meaning”, an unbelievably powerful book that I have somehow never read before.

You know when you’re reading a book and you find yourself wanting to underline or highlight or quote every page?

That. It was that kind of engagement with a book. The kind where you gasp out loud (at least I do!) and say to yourself, yes, THAT.

I’ve tried to find a quote that aligns with this … perspective? this happening? this occurrence? And I can’t come up with one. I can’t come up with a word, either, other than serendipity (as is apparent from this post). But it’s such a powerful force in my life right now that I can’t help but recognize it, and call it out, and really, truly savor it. I don’t know if it’s the forced isolation, or the many changes in our daily lives in the last month, but… well, whatever it is, somehow what I need at any given time is there for the taking, if I only know enough to recognize it.

The best option came from a book I haven’t yet read (but perhaps I should…):

“The right book exactly, at exactly the right time.” ― Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore  

Another old favorite…

Going back to another old favorite for comfort in what are unsettling, uncertain times…

per aspera ad astra (~through adversity to the stars)

This has been a favorite quote of mine since I first heard it a year or so ago. It can mean so many things, in so many different contexts, but it seems particularly relevant now.

I didn’t have a great week last week. I was worried about students, about my own health and that of my family members, about my current relationship and the ever spinning question of what to do, and how to move forward, and if that is even the best choice.


It wasn’t a fun week.

Fortunately, things are looking up this week, despite the weather (you have to love the upper Midwest in the “spring”… yesterday we had 34, winds up to 20 mph, and snow showers… just as a reminder, it IS mid-April!). Taking action on many of these things (well, not the relationship one, I’m still struggling with that…) helped a lot.

And this quote, arriving in my inbox on Monday, reminded me that no matter what adversity we face, individually or collectively, we will get through. The stars will shine. Life goes on. Going through adversity, difficult times, challenging periods in our lives? We all have that. But those times pass, and that’s what I was forgetting last week. I was mired in a never ending cycle of negativity.

Fortunately, I made it out of that, and am starting to see the stars again. I hope they are out, or come out soon, for you, too.

Finding the beauty…

Times like these (and, who knew that we would be living in such times?), I tend to turn to the old favorites. And one of mine – actually, I think I read it at our high school graduation as the “benediction” (even though I went to a non-religious very public high school) – is Desiderata.

It begins…

“GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.”

and then ends 

“And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

Yes. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it IS still a beautiful world. 
Reminded of this on my early-morning run on Sunday… yes, the photo is blurry, and no, I’m not a photographer, but oh, this took my breath away, and I want to remember it.