There is a phenomenon that happens when someone experiences doubt.
I used to see it all the time when people would drop off their children at school. As the parent is pulling away and feeling the pressure of the building carline behind them, they suddenly experience a pang of doubt that something has been forgotten and they transfer that doubt to their child by asking, “Do you have everything?”
We think of it as a helpful reminder. Our intentions are good. These are not bad parents. We are only behaving in the ways that have always come before us and using the systems that have sometimes been known to save us from what seems like unnecessary pains and struggles.
But the damage that occurs is more lethal than we realize. Suddenly, the child responds to the concern of their trusted caregiver, once feeling happy and confident that they were ready for the day, an expression of worry comes over their faces as they recount all of their belongings and responsibilities quickly, and under pressure begin to frantically wonder, “Do I have everything?”
Sometimes in this moment, we remember things that aren’t really necessary or we suddenly believe that what we initially thought was necessary was an erroneous judgment and now the question actually becomes, “Do I have enough?”
It’s true, there are some circumstances where we remember something important and we restore order and ensure our daily routine will not be disrupted. But more often than not, what we are actually creating for ourselves is unnecessary stress, over analysis, and over preparedness, but the worst possibility is that we are preventing ourselves from developing an adaptive response.
We are essentially saying to ourselves, “If you run out of this item, you will not be able to recover or find an alternate solution. You may not deviate from the prescribed solution, because that would be the wrong answer, and it might create further discomfort, inconvenience, or outright suffering.”
I think instead if we could begin to practice confidence in our decisions, we would lesson our burden overall. It does not mean that we will get it right 100% of the time or that we should throw our caution to the wind. But if we give ourselves some space to actually trust that we are processing and preparing an adequate amount for the day ahead, confidently initiate our engagements, then when the time comes that we really have forgotten something or made a mistake, we take that as an opportunity to make it right.
We adapt. We problem solve. We don’t agonize. We don’t criticize. We don’t blame. We don’t degrade. We don’t shame. We simply take a fresh look around at the resources that are available, and we make it work.
As a modern society, we have afforded ourselves many comforts. There is an underlying sense of entitlement that these comforts are actually necessities. But the unfortunate trade off of this is that it clouds our vision for what is truly necessary.
Food, shelter, clothing, water, oxygen and even these things do not have to be hoarded at an excessive rate if we can entertain the idea of trusting the process of life. Maybe we borrow from our neighbor that we never speak to otherwise. Maybe we alter our diet or place less value on the type of clothing we wear. Maybe we adjust our expectation for what the day will provide us, or the quota of what we are required to produce in one day.
In a time such as this, especially, may we view crisis as an opportunity to make things better and right size what is truly essential and truly important. The pandemic Coronavirus has triggered a massive wave of people hysterically buying up materials they believe they will need because they are afraid those materials will not become available. But the sad truth is this behavior is a self-fulfilling prophecy. There may not now be enough materials for people who really need them, because hysteria has caused an overreaction. The innocuous question, “Do I have everything?” has morphed into its potentially harmful counterpart, “Do I have enough?”
Protective measures, social distancing, and even getting a few extra supplies are not an overreaction. But when we move into the territory of causing that stressed, panicked response, we eat away at the trust we have in ourselves to problem solve, adapt, and most fatally we eat away at the trust we have in the process of life to unfold naturally.