Future tripping is not really a gamble but the stakes are our very lives.
The future lives in the unknown and sometimes we get that dopamine hit like the lever of a slot machine. Will today be my lucky day? Will I go pro or go home? So we go outward, discarding the mundane and instead wishing the day away to a future point.
We end up not appreciating how good we have today: Our lungs to breathe. Our hearts to beat and pump. Life force coursing through our veins. Our loved ones here today to share a meal or a hug. To think it will be better or I will feel complete or more organized/fit/healthy/alive in the future makes us miss the target. The point is that today is all we have.
Dreams and goals are important and we shouldn’t dismiss them and not have them. Just don’t let them crowd our vision of today. What small steps can I take today? What future do I envision? Why does it hold power and energy or attention over right now? What can I do this very moment to bring that vision closer to my reality? Ask questions. Take stock. Be still and listen to the guidance.
Is wishing away the potty training stage and loads of laundry that goes with it worth not being present to see her smile? Her full sentences form, her blooming creative play, her, “Momma, play with me?” This is where I am and the future is uncertain. Someday it will go by all too fast and be a distant memory. Today I’m in her life. We share the same roof and space.
I can wish the clutter and loud chaos away or I can see the bigger picture. We have the means to acquire all these awesome toys that allow us stretch our imaginations and connect with each other. I can witness how she’s finally grappling with her own body cues to use the bathroom on her own. And as in all learning, there are missteps and accidents happen. And I don’t want to miss it for a moment.
Hedging our bets on an unknown future robs us of what is happening in the here and now. I will breathe and I will play, if only for today, because that’s where I live.
Who knows? We put so much energy and attention focused on the future: planning, striving, endless to-do’s and tasks that we lose the entire weekend. My word this year is “Linger.” And even I need a reminder. I get future-tripped up in the anticipation of an upcoming retreat, a potential job opportunity, or perfecting my dream vision that my energy gets sapped from the here and now. How can I linger over this cup of coffee when I’m all prepared for an event that might not happen at all?
There is no refund or credit on that time and energy spent and now it all comes down to the wire. Will I get it or not? And how can I prevent my energy from being wasted again in the future? Do I need a grounding mantra that will gently nudge myself before I get full-on lost in thought, planning, fuming, etc. on whatever it is?
And this happens when I get stuck on past events too. I replay and rehash them. I imagine scenarios with a different outcome and my correct and witty response. I make excuses to myself to relieve the miserableness, horror or embarrassment of it all.
Is it just me?
We are all hurting. If there’s one thing we share in common, it’s that we all experience pain and/or suffering.
Our thoughts can hold us hostage and sabotage our present moment. For example, when I got my new job, my husband suggested, “Let’s spend some time celebrating!” In an instant my mind shifted into forward thinking. There’s childcare needs, a new wardrobe to purchase, and a general fear of the unknown. That moment to celebrate was ever so brief. Sweet but not fully experienced, not completely felt. In hindsight, perhaps I should have taken a moment to savor the excitement and opportunity and let a feeling of gratitude set in.
It’s over too quickly and we can’t get it back. I had a similar experience when my 19-year old cat Max died. My mom and I never followed through on our plan to memorialize him. We were in a state of grief and I had to take care of my toddler. We didn’t get the chance to properly mourn him. As a result we suffered on our own and grieved alone. Instead of holding each other, we kept it inside. A few years have passed since then. And I don’t know if we will ever be in that space again.
Our thoughts can run wild if we let them. They can rob us from the rich and healing experience of being fully present: to how we are feeling or what is happening in this moment. Now I try to pause when I notice my mind going rampant or rehashing the same story over and over. I take a deep breath and think, “I’ve already spent enough time, space and energy on this.” I soften and I take a moment to notice my surroundings. “How is this story, forward or past thinking distracting me from the NOW? Is it causing me undo stress?” Of course, it is.
Then I ask the question, “How do I want to feel instead?” Usually I want to feel relaxed, present and connected to my family.
And the final question, “What can I do to make that feeling a reality?” Usually it’s taking a few box breaths or utilizing one of my self-care tools. I’m a work in progress. There are days when I forget my tools and I get lost in thought and distraction. I lose my grounding and connection to myself and the present moment. I’ve accepted the fact that I’m continuing to learn and re-learn what works for me, and I will always continue to do so.
Now it’s your turn. How do your thoughts affect you? Are they distracting you from what’s going on right now? Are they causing you undo stress? If so, how do you want to feel instead? And what can you do to make that feeling come true?
I send you peace.