by Krista A. Lample, M.Ed
OK I’m waiting……. 2021 is supposed to be better right? It’s been a month and a half. I’ve been patient. Everyone’s getting vaccinated. Where is the “better” that I was promised? Ok maybe I wasn’t promised per se but I feel like it was implied. Why don’t I feel any differently? Why am I still anxious a lot of the time?
Does this happen to you? Do you focus on an event or point in time in the future that is just going to be “wonderful” but then it fails to deliver? It’s not as good as you thought it would be. It’s even, dare I say, a disappointment. According to Buddhism, we are attached to our desires or expectations and this is one reason why we suffer. I always push back against this. It’s at odds with my American positivity and “look on the bright side” and “expect the best” mentality. If I don’t expect good things they won’t happen or something like that right? But the truth is, my mental health experience tells me that our thoughts can deceive us at times.
I’ve thought a lot about why I am like this. I seem to get hit harder than most people I know when things don’t go exactly how I envisioned them. I am hard on myself and others. I don’t seem to have the “go with the flow” gene or something. I’ve been this way since I was a child which tells me my parent’s divorce probably has something to do with it but also, I just seem to be wired this way. Living in the moment has never been easy for me.
There is nothing wrong with looking forward to something. There is something wrong with abandoning the “here and now” to only focus on the future. Not dealing with what is in front of you and daydreaming about what’s to come is a tempting escape when what is in front of you is _______(fill in the blank with whatever negative word comes to mind). Right now mine would be monotonous.
You think I’m building up to an answer don’t you? You think I have figured out 5 easy steps to conquering the vicious cycle of focusing on the future at the expense of the present. You think I have figured out how to avoid the disappointment when the future plan or event doesn’t deliver. I’m sorry to tell you….I have not.
Here is what I can tell you. I made it through 2020. I’m okay. It’s okay. I can stop policing my feelings but I can just acknowledge them and then move on. I know feelings change from moment to moment.
I don’t have to have figured out and adjusted all of my character flaws during quarantine just like I don’t have to have learned to knit or bake bread. I can be however I am. I can be disappointed and also hopeful. I can have fun tonight watching a movie with my husband and also look forward to hopefully going on vacation this summer. It doesn’t have to be one thing or the other. I don’t have to beat myself up for not living in the moment and judge myself for dreaming about the future. I get it…mindfulness and everything….but honestly I think I am the healthiest when I can just be however I am and be okay with that.
I hope this makes sense. 2021 has not yet been the redemption that I wanted it to be. That doesn’t mean it won’t be great. And also it might be terrible. That’s not the point. I don’t have 5 easy steps for anything but I can tell you that learning to stop judging your feelings is a good start. Its okay to be how you are right now.