when life is uncertain, just focus on today
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It’s been a whirlwind, hasn’t it. Here we all are, thrust into a situation we never anticipated, with very little warning, even less preparation and a very vague end date.
Daniel and I made the call to isolate early in the piece. It felt like the most sensible decision for us, considering we were already living light but mostly because our travels meant we were often close neighbours with susceptible grey nomads and we didn’t want to risk them or us.
Sharing amenities in caravan parks didn’t feel like a practical option either so we started looking for an airbnb to spend a week or two so we could settle and make some solid plans. But as you know, the situation quickly escalated, and subsequently, the airbnb we were in had all its bookings cancel. I call this serendipity of the most wonderful kind because while uncertainty and the unknown swirled around us, we had found ourselves a sanctuary to shelter in.
Indeed, it’s been a very smooth transition from travelling to isolation. Over the past 21months we’ve spent many rainy days tucked up in the van together, many hours driving from one destination to the next buoyed by conversation, snacks and a good playlist. It’s been an easy transition because we’ve all of a sudden got much more space but also, because we’ve learnt to lean into the uncertainty of nomadic life and find comfort in what we already have; each other, a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, books on our shelves.
It’s beautiful here; north facing, bathed in light and surrounded by gumtrees. I’m well aware of the fact that it’s providing us with a very comfortable first winter in Tasmania and, hence, a false sense of security. But we’ll take it. The comfort of a home and the luxury of space, a washing machine and full bathroom is not lost on me and I admit, it’s made this anxious time much more manageable.
Pandemic or not, I think we can all agree that life is uncertain and it’s unpredictable in nature. Yes, we can navigate it with good intentions, positive manifestations and faith in God or deity, but mostly we must do as Rumi suggests: “Don’t push the river; it flows by itself”.
I may have clung to this mantra as I prepared to birth my babies over the years – and it really is perfect for birthing mothers – but I find it’s rather apt for life too. And undeniably comforting in this time of corona where no one has the answers and we must find solace in our homes and our hearts, in deep breaths and virtual hugs.
Two years ago, when we were in the final stages of packing up the home and moving into the caravan, I could physically feel myself swept up and away by the uncertainty of what we were doing. My body was pulsing with nervous energy and I was inept at completing the most basic of tasks. I was so focussed on the countdown ahead of me that I failed to focus on what was right in front of me. I was, for want of a better description, a ball of anxiety swept up in a whirlwind of caravan renovations, house packing and the unending requests of three children and a crawling baby.
There was only one way for me to deal with the uncertainty of the big life change we had chosen for ourselves and that was to dive head first into it. I accepted, there and then, that it was part of the experience. Life wasn’t so much about safe plans anymore but unpredictable adventures.
I turned my awareness to my breath and the task at hand – whatever that may have been – and every day I stepped into our suburban backyard with bare feet and stood still, looked up and out, reminded myself that my anxieties were so much smaller than they appeared in my head.
Two years on and 21months of permanent travel has taught me many things but most pertinent of them all is this; plan for today, think about tomorrow when it comes. Tomorrow holds all the exciting, daunting, challenging and inspiring possibilities that for now, are unknown. But for someone like me, who tends to project a little too wildly and get caught up in the what ifs, I’m a much calmer, happier, grounded being if I can focus on the present, be mindful of what I have, and practise gratitude for my privilege.
Of course, this is simply my take on it and I’m well aware that thousands, if not millions of people are currently experiencing an entirely different level of uncertainty that threatens their livelihood, their mental health and their housing stability. It’s a frightening situation that, if I watch too much news or think too far ahead, renders me dumbfounded and overwhelmed.
I also know that I can’t change this reality and in this sense, the uncertainty of this pandemic is not unlike the uncertainty of climate change. They are both pressing global issues that require government response and systematic change.
They bluntly highlight our vulnerability in the most confronting way.
But it’s humbling, I think, to be reminded that we aren’t all powerful, that we don’t have it all under control, that we really must flow with the river and place energy, hope and faith in ourselves, our families and our homes. Because as we’ve seen in the past four or so weeks, if we all make the necessary changes, the results are powerful.