For weeks I have been trying to define how I feel about my daily work, my regular engagements with family, and my routine volunteerism that spans several different domains. They have all seemed to take on a “sameness”: a sense of everything flowing the same way, at the same pace, towards the same place.
Of course, they are NOT all flowing to the same place, real or metaphorical, but I have not been able to define the overarching sense of what is happening now all the time.
Today it finally came to me that everything I do is “preparing.” It feels like there is no ultimate doing, just getting ready to do something else. Now I know that life is like that. I tell people I train to design better workshops that the time spent preparing the event is what counts. With proper preparation and sound design, the workshop will take care of itself. I believe and have proven it throughout my career.
We don’t just get up on any given day and take a trip. We prepare. We don’t simply get married, or get a college degree, or buy a house. We prepare, sometimes for years, to get to the place where the ultimate “doing” occurs.
So preparing is part of everything. But now, I feel like that is all that is left.
Maybe every summer feels like this, but I just never noticed. After all, I work in higher education, and summers are supposed to be about preparing. We prepare for new student arrivals, for classes we will teach in the fall, for new activities.
But this year, life has an aura of being about a preparation that may never lead to anything. I am not morbid (I don’t think). My mind is not drifting to my demise. The feeling is not about me getting older and starting to look for my mortality.
But it is about a road that has no clear endpoint. It is about developing a course I may never give, about contacting students I may never meet, or presentations with no audience.
It is not just the changes we have experienced. Change is a constant. It is not only the uncertainty of these times.
It is the continually changing uncertainty.
Even uncertainty has a certain rhythm if you think about it. We know we will live with it for some undefined time but the nature of the uncertainty–will I get the job, will this project be of sufficient quality, will my choices trap me–is predictable. Yes, I said that uncertainty is predictable.
But not this year. The uncertainty has taken on a random quality that suggests that almost anything might happen. Uncertainty has come loose of its moorings in the routine and is adrift in currents that could send it crashing away. And then what?
Uncertainty gone–replaced only by a randomness that makes you fear to peak out the door?
I think it is a particular feature of privilege that says we do not have to stand for the randomness and that we are entitled to our predictable (and therefore controllable) uncertainty.
I think most people on the planet live with the randomness, not the uncertainty they can control. Further, it is my experience that they spend most of their time preparing
- preparing the fields,
- preparing for the harvest,
- preparing to fend off disease,
- preparing to face the inevitable losses that will come,
- preparing for a tomorrow that is too far over the horizon ever to imagine.
I will get up tomorrow and prepare and, perhaps, be thankful that I will have food in my stomach, health in my body, and a place to sleep when my preparations are all done.