Every day, I am acutely aware of the uncertainty that surrounds me. In my state, one in five are uncertain whether they will have access to enough food to live a healthy, active lifestyle. That’s 20% of the population facing food insecurity.

In 2020 when my city recorded 49 murders, the rate was 24.8/100,000. That was above the national average of 6.5/100,000 people. To date this year, we have had 70 murders. These include a small child who was shot and killed in a car riding to the zoo.

Not all shooting victims die. Last week, a mother and her two-year-old were wounded while driving on the interstate. Three nights ago, gunshots rang out at the end of the block when I was standing on my front porch saying goodnight to my sister. We all flinched, shook our heads, and went back to business. My neighborhood stopped calling the cops over gunfire years ago. It was pointless.

Before you get too excited by that statement. Yes, we call 9-1-1 if someone gets hurt. Even that can be dicey. A few years ago, I called to report that there was a man outside my house yelling that he had been shot. First question from 9-1-1, “What color is he?” Huh?! How ‘bout just send an ambulance?

Then came the pandemic in which we’ve amassed the eighth-highest death rate from COVID-19 in the country. We’re 33rd in population so those12,000ish deaths that represents haven’t been enough to trigger support for mitigation policies or push the number of those fully vaccinated to 60%.

Life is more tenuous here than in many places. And we haven’t even gotten to the high incidence of chronic health conditions, high ACE scores in children, high rate of domestic violence, or the number of children needing permanent homes.

How does all that uncertainty affect us?

Uncertainty is a fact for everyone, but some are able to construct situations that keep the feelings of worry and anxiety it can bring at bay. But with the pandemic came uncertainty for everyone for a time. It swiftly became clear our mettle was going to be tested as individuals and as a society.

We haven’t yet gotten ahead of SARS CoV-2 so we can’t fully analyze who dealt with its reality best. But there are indications that many of us white-knuckle clutched onto anything from before the pandemic that made us feel more certain (or normal).

And we have demanded those things even when scientific evidence could not support us having them – large weddings or funerals without masks before vaccines in indoor spaces; sporting events; concerts; indoor dining; maskless classrooms. This leaves me to ponder whether we’re more concerned about losing our artificial sense of certainty than we are about sacrificing our actual safety?

I also wonder whether the undertow pulling progress backward in states like mine is related to discomfort with uncertainty. We know what happens if we do things like we’ve always done them. We aren’t so sure what will happen if we vary.

Some people may think I’m talking about fear of change. But we willingly change things all the time. We change our hair color, houses, décor, clothes, schools, jobs, hairdressers, doctors, vacation destinations, etc. We embrace change we have determined will bring something we desire. We may not have absolute certainty, but we have an adequate level of confidence to feel comfortable taking the risk.

When change is forced on us, uncertainty comes with it. In that situation, some thrive. They seem to be able to rely on the fact that they’ll be okay even if they don’t know what comes next.

I feel like that’s the key: The knowing you’ll be okay whether things are certain or not. Because things are never certain. You may think they are until lightning strikes, a hurricane blows in, or a stray bullet hits your window.

If that’s the key, it would follow that progress, growth, and improvement are all facilitated by a deep knowing that whatever happens, we will be okay. That sounds really big! It is. And that’s for another post.

For now, I’ll leave you with a few things to contemplate:

  • Can you sit with uncertainty and still feel calm, safe, and comfortable with yourself and your path (maybe not every moment, but overall)?
  • Do you tell yourself the truth even when it makes you feel less certain than denial or fantasy?
  • Are you comfortable with allowing for the possibility of an unknown outcome?
  • Are you confident enough to learn rather than jumping to conclusions that feel certain?
  • Do you sell yourself short in order to create a more certain outcome?
  • Does uncertainty cause you distress in some situations, but not others?  
  • If you were certain it would turn out okay, what would you do that you’re not doing now?

Certainty is a powerful illusion. One that we often count on to our own detriment. We can change that but first we must get more comfortable allowing ourselves space to feel uncertain.

Author: Cheri Thriver

Hello, Cheri Thriver here blogging about cooking, thriving, and the intersection of the two. I’ve been living a gluten-free lifestyle for over 15 years. I understand that it’s rarely a lack of knowledge or the availability of appropriate food that keeps us from making healthy choices. More often than not, it’s an emotional connection, previous trauma, or fear of social reprisal that keeps us stuck. My wish is that you’ll find something here that informs, entertains, or inspires you to change anything that needs to be changed for you to live fully and thrive.

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