It’s the not knowing that’s the worst part of all of this.
‘There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.’
Donald Rumsfeld (US Secretary of State for Defence at the time) said this back in 2002.
I think once we know what we’re up against, we can work out how to cope with it. But not knowing is hard to deal with. How can we decide what to worry about if we don’t know what we’re up against? We end up just worrying about everything.
So – what are our known knowns? We know it’s serious, we know it’s spread by droplets, we know we have no immunity to it.
And of course there are the known unknowns – we know that we don’t know when things will be back to normal, we know that we don’t know if we’ll catch it or how it will affect us if we do.
But it’s the unknown unknowns that are hardest to cope with – we don’t know what we don’t know, but that doesn’t stop us worrying about it.
I find out on Monday whether or not I will be furloughed (that’s a known unknown!). I work for a major DIY chain in the UK. I’m a kitchen designer really, but for at least two weeks now we’ve all just been working stock and processing Click and Collect orders. Customers come to the store to collect their orders, and we take the items out to them in their cars. Because we sell things that people need in order to keep their homes safe and secure, we’re classed as key workers.
I have mixed feelings about the possibility of being furloughed. They asked us what our preferences would be – and I think on balance I would prefer to carry on working.
For one thing, I have no ties – I can work any hours on any days, I have no children to look after. It seems reasonable for me to do the work when others can’t. For another thing, it gives me at least six hours a day when I don’t have time to think about anything too deeply (all those unknown unknowns), and in the current circumstances that’s no bad thing. And also, as the work is now so physically demanding (those 25kg bags of plaster won’t lift themselves…) I find I’m generally sleeping much better than previously. And continuing to earn full pay with the possibility of overtime also has its advantages.
But – I can see the advantages of being furloughed, even if it’s only on 80% pay. No longer running the risk of being with other people who may pass it on to me. Shut away in my own home I might even be able to convince myself that it’s OK really. I’d be able to get on with a few things that I need to do and a few things that I’d like to do. I have to admit I’ve got a certain amount of Lockdown Envy. I certainly don’t have time to paint the house, or learn to draw, or convert the garage to a gym at the moment!!
I think I’m at the stage now of just wanting to know one way or the other – will I be furloughed or not? Once I know what I’m doing, I’ll be able to deal with it (it’ll be a known known).
Have you noticed that the more often you read the word ‘known’ the weirder it looks?? No? Just me??
How are you coping with all the unknowns in your life at the moment?
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