“Will we ever know what’s right?”
I heard this question in a song the other day, and ever since I’ve been trying to answer it. Does analyzing song lyrics and posting it online make me crazy? Maybe. But I’m hoping my thoughts can give you the peace of mind you might be searching for during these unforeseen times.
Sometimes it’s easy to know what’s right. On a multiple choice test, you know one of the choices has to be right. When you make brownies, the recipe has a list of the right ingredients and the right amounts of them. But when we don’t have 4 options to choose from or we don’t know what the outcome will be, knowing what’s right can seem like an impossible task.
When I think about impossible tasks, I’m reminded of an experience I recently had. A few months ago, I asked my doctor if there was a way to reduce the side effects I felt from my medicine. She said I could stop taking my current medication and switch to a different one (with its own list of side effects), or I could keep everything the same. On paper, it seems like a simple decision. Switch, or don’t switch. But that basic question came with dozens of “what if’s” that made the choice seem impossible. Would the new medicine work? Would it work for a long time? Would I get the same side effects? Would I get even more side effects? Would I feel the same? Better? Worse? What if something bad happened? Would it be my fault? It felt unfair that I was expected to make this choice when I didn’t know the consequences of each side. And I felt like I needed to know those consequences so that I could pick the “right” option.
Of course, that experience itself is nothing like a global pandemic. But the feelings of confusion, the countless “what if’s”, the realization that we can’t always know what will happen, and the fear of not being in control-the things that I felt in that moment-are the same things afflicting us right now.
Currently, as we sit at home in quarantine, not knowing what the future looks like, it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of figuring out what’s “right.” Is it more right to wear a mask to the grocery store or to give it to a healthcare worker? Is it more right to support a restaurant or stay at home and cook? Is it more right to cancel plans for next month or hope that they will work out? As I mentioned in my story above, it’s very easy to get caught up in these questions and fill yourself with worry and fear. So in times like these, we have to take a step back. We have to accept the fact that sometimes, we can’t control or even foresee what’s going to happen in the future. We have to realize that sometimes, we won’t know what’s right. But that doesn’t mean our only options are panic or shut down.
Right now, we don’t know the “right” way to handle what’s happening around us. And we can’t expect ourselves to! None of us have experienced something like this before, a none of us can predict the future. None of us can single-handedly fix the mess we’re in. But we can seek out reliable news sources, follow recommended protocols, and try our best keep ourselves and others safe. Are those protocols the “right” way to manage things? I don’t know. But for now, it’s the closest to “right” that we have.
So it’s time to stop panicking. It’s time to stop hoarding grocery items. It’s time to stop asking irrational “what if’s,” and it’s time to stop fueling the fire of anxiety and fear that society has lit. Because while I don’t know the right way to deal with this situation, I do know that that fire is not it.
We may not know what’s going to happen next month, or next week, or even tomorrow. We may not know the “right” way to handle a prolonged quarantine, especially from an emotional standpoint. And we may not know the “right” way to respond to the damage that has been caused by COVID-19. But next month, next week and tomorrow will still come and go. Eventually, we will adjust. And eventually, life will go back to what is used to be. Right now, we don’t know what’s “right.” But we don’t need to. We might not want to, but for now, we just have to be okay with feeling lost.