Embracing Ambiguity, By: Colin Jamron

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May 05, 2021

It’s been over a year now since the covid-19 pandemic upended life as we knew it across the globe. We
suddenly had to become concerned for the health and wellbeing of ourselves and those around us in
ways that were often unpredictable and frightening. Social distancing, slowing the spread, quarantine,
and shut downs became part of our vocabularies and part of our lives. Many lost their lives tragically.
It seemed like everything changed practically overnight. As it became clear that this was in fact a full
blown pandemic certain rules of conduct came into widespread practice: Stay home, if you must go out
then be sure to wear a mask, keep at least six feet from others, wash your hands frequently. All of this
was necessary to slow the spread and protect lives. Though challenging, it was clear what we had to do.
Fast forward a year later and things are more complicated. Covid infections are down from their peak,
vaccines are being delivered at an astonishing rate, and some areas are reopening. Great news to be
sure and yet we are not out of the woods yet. While a time to be thankful for the progress that has been
made it can also be a time of ambiguity. When should we wear our masks outside? Is it safe to eat
indoors at a restaurant? Should we return to our offices?

It’s not unusual to feel anxious when change happens, especially when the stakes are high. It’s hard to
know what the right thing to do is. For example, if someone is considering going out to eat at a
restaurant there may be an increased risk of contracting or spreading the virus, which we would want to
avoid. At the same time we need to practice self care and our mental health may benefit from getting
out of the house and doing something that brings enjoyment. The option of going out to eat can look
good or bad depending on the perspective being applied. In the end it may not exactly be either one.
Learning to embrace ambiguity in our lives is a process of challenging ourselves to think differently
about control as well as our concepts of right and wrong. So often we categorize events in our lives as
good or bad, right or wrong, as a means to organize the world around us. While this makes sense on
some levels it can also be at the expense of nuance. Some things in life don’t fit neatly into predefined
categories. We of course have science and research to help inform and guide us, an invaluable asset, but
sometimes it’s hard to know how to apply the information we are being provided.

Accepting uncertainty requires us to let go of our need for full control. Often life does not provide us
with all the details we might like in order to make our decisions. It is often helpful to check in with
ourselves and take stock of what we can and cannot control and make the best decisions we can. It is a
necessary balancing act we need to employ to take care of ourselves and others. As we get better at
dealing with ambiguity the easier it will be to see the nuance of situations and avoid unnecessary
judgment. Compassion, vigilance, and understanding will help us get through this together.