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A jumbled mind

Man, I don’t know about anyone else, but my mind is a jumble these days. I’m taking things in, but not necessarily absorbing them. And bouncing around even more than usual.


Just writing this post, which will be the equivalent of about a page or two, seems daunting.


I say that I guess, by way of apologizing upfront if I’m a bit rambling. If my ideas seem a bit unformed, disparate. If they seem like they’re coming from everywhere…it’s because they are.


The thread though, however thin, running through much of it is uncertainty.


Humans do not do well with uncertainty. Like to the point that studies have shown that people are calmer anticipating pain when they know it's coming rather than when they are told it might come. We want yes or no. We want an answer.


And while uncertainty is always there, for most of us it’s probably not so much and not all at once. Uncertainty about the future. Uncertainty about the past. Uncertainty about how to sit in the present. (So yep, pretty much covers all the bases.)


We’re having to face the uncertainty of science. It’s a difficult thing to know that science can eventually bring us facts, but that, especially in the early stages of something, it’s more about questions than answers. It’s a process.


And for some time now, we’ve been confronted with uncertainty around the concept of heroes. People we look up to, admire, aspire to be like. People who’ve done good work - created movies and books that we love; started helpful institutions - but who are still, after all, just people. Flawed, complex, contradictory. And sometimes worse.


Seemingly unrelated, but not really, I can’t get the phrase “the courage of your convictions” out of my head. I find myself asking if it’s such a good thing. The courage part, sure, but I’m wondering if having conviction in the face of all this uncertainty (or ever) is wise.


But then, how would we stand up without it?


And doesn’t there have to be a “right”? (See, that’s me, wanting certainty again.)


There’s just so much without a solution.


“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald, from Austin Kleon’s Keep Going


So I’m also thinking about hope.


I’m thinking about how to maintain it even in its smallest measure because without it, well, I don’t want to think about that.


I feel hopeful on my hikes. (Nature is always hopeful.)


I hike the same path the same way nearly every day. Having that kind of routine allows me to sort of dive into my thoughts; to really pay attention to them because I don’t have to think about where I’m going. But lately, I’ve spent more time listening to the birds instead.


For the most part, I don’t know what birds are there so I don’t know which calls are coming from whom, but I have started to distinguish one from another. I do know the call of the little bird who sits atop a stalk-like plant and can throw its voice; I do know the cry of a hawk; I do know when there’s a new call I haven’t heard before.


I feel hopeful practicing the violin. Something I picked up again after not having done it since grade school. It doesn’t matter that I can only play two songs and not very well. (My poor neighbors!) There’s hope in starting a new hobby; in being a beginner and working to get better.


I feel hopeful taking advice to narrow the gaze.


To find little things to look forward to, for instance. Even if it’s, like Austin also says, a bowl of Cap’n Crunch in the afternoon. (For me, it's Special K, but you get the point.)


To focus on each day as it comes. It can feel less overwhelming when we take life in smaller pieces; one day at a time. And, importantly, trying to go easy on these days; trying not to expect too awful much from them. Because a little uncertainty in that way can be a good thing.


Stealing one last thing from Austin: “A day that seems like waste now might turn out to have a purpose or use or beauty to it later on…Every day is like a blank page: When you’re finished filling it, you can save it, you can crumple it up, or you can slide it into the recycling bin and let it be. Only time will tell you what it was worth.”

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