My mother used to tell me that every Halloween, before the night was over and before I was bouncing off the walls chock full of sugar, I would already be planning my next costume. No matter that the night had barely begun, my head was already 365 days into the future considering whether I wanted to be a witch, a penguin, or a serial killer.
I have been this way as long as I remember.
My metaphorical feet have always been split, one planted here in the present while the other inches toward the future.
The older I get and the more life takes me in different directions, the more I have wondered why it is that I feel the need to worry and obsess over the future. What is it that pulls me away from the present and into the unknown days ahead?
We obsess about the future to “protect” ourselves from any outcome that scares us.
We obsess and believe on some level by doing so, we can prevent something terrible from happening. Perhaps if we consider every single terrible possibility we can soften the blow or perhaps even keep said terrible thing from happening.
Surely obsessing can prevent our greatest fears.
Therapists call this “magical thinking”, I call it a normal day to day part of my day.
I cannot even tell you how many times my husband will wave his hand in front of my face “Gen? Hello earth to Gen” as we sit on the couch, my head a million miles away in the worrying over some future situation that has yet to even occur. I should be sitting there talking and spending time together but instead I am worrying about what’s to come, completely oblivious to the here and now.
As a world class worrier, I have of course worried a great deal about my health and how things will go…along with three billion other things including:
-what I would do if an asteroid was going to hit the earth
-what I would say if I ran into an old friend who broke my heart
–what I would do if there was a burglar
The sad part about this is that by and large, all those hours spent worrying about the future are wasted hours. When I look back on the past almost 34 years of my life, very few of my worries have come to fruition. Most importantly none of my worrying made those few situations any easier.
We obsess about the future when we are unable or unwilling to work on ourselves in the present.
When I was a young adult I was always moving, always running towards something else. I have changed schools more than I would like to admit, a topic that still to this day brings me a lot of shame.
I didn’t used to understand it.
Why I would be where I thought I wanted to be and yet within a few months hate where I was and want to run as fast as I could to somewhere else?
It took me many years to see that I thought if I could change destinations and change my future in some slight shift, I could feel happier.
I could be happy in this new place. I just knew it.
Whenever said happiness didn’t occur and the same self loathing and anxiety cropped up, I was on the move once more fully immersed in the belief that whatever I felt would get better if I just changed where I was.
There were so many years I wasn’t fully present because at the first sign of anxiety, the first sign of depression, I was ready to pack up my stuff and head on to wherever I now thought would be THE place I could be happy. Places would become tinged with the issues I was struggling with.
Instead of sitting in those feelings and separating out that I wasn’t happy because of something inside ME, I would be half packed and ready to be somewhere else.
Now that I am older and able to admit that this pattern was problematic I think about all the chances I had and feel a bit sad and frustrated with my old self. All the friends I could have made, all the neat places I have lived and didn’t take full advantage of.
I was a tourist in my own life and because of this, I missed out time and again.
Instead of being brave and working through my social anxiety and mental health issues, I was already dreaming of where I should be next.
After college this behavior became a thing of the past as I worked on my social anxiety and matured a little. That pull to run when things were hard became a behavior I knew was unhelpful and so I pushed it away into the storage unit in my brain.
Then after I got sick, that old familiar instinct suddenly broke free.
We had moved into a townhouse November 2011 right after my CRPS had started. It was there that we grieved the sudden loss of Sean’s mom that January. It was there in that I first became sick with Lyme and spent day after day that spring in bed worrying that I was dying from some unknown illness.
Once again I found myself wanting to move, to get away from the memories in our townhouse. I can admit now that a tiny part of me hoped that maybe if we moved, something would shift and I could finally feel better even though I knew that wasn’t how things worked.
We obsess about the future to protect ourselves from the present.
Even though I no longer feel that pull to move and run, I find myself struggling to stay present in my daily life.
My chronic pain is sometimes so strong, so deep that my mind wants to roam instead of be aware of what is happening inside my body. I am on the couch or in bed but I am also somewhere else, desperately trying to escape my body at the cost of ignoring the world around me.
The problem is once again, I am missing out.
In the past 5 years I have obsessed and worried a lot about my future. I worried when I didn’t have a diagnosis for either illness, worried when I did get diagnosed, worried when things got worse, worried when I lost the ability to walk and work and so on. I have obsessed over whether I will ever be able to have children, have a full-time job again, or walk normally.
This particular mix of possibilities-now realities with my current health is really beyond anything that my anxious brain could come up with.
Right now I am in a place I really never imagined I would be.
My Lyme Disease is out of remission, my ketamine infusions stopped working, my CRPS has spread to more places than I even imagined was possible within a short matter of months, and I am about to re-start Lyme treatment AGAIN with no ketamine infusions in my immediate future.
This is my life in the here and now, whether I like it or not.
It’s truly taken some time to feel the way “the ketamine didn’t work”, “my CRPS has spread again”, “the stupid Lyme Disease is back” all felt rolling off my tongue. It’s taken some time to sit with each shift in my health and mull over what each of these changes means for me and my life.
A few weeks ago I just woke up one day and said to myself “well Genevieve this is where you are”.
Since then, things have felt easier even though nothing really has changed.
I am still in the same place facing the same challenges yet I no longer feel like my soul is weighted down, like I swallowed a stone.
The fear still rises up from time to time. Starting Lyme treatment has increased my pain and my chronic nausea but I know this is a part of what I have to do which again makes it easier to say “This is where I am. This is how it has to be. I cannot do anything about this except what I know I need to do”
But some days while my body is willing, Sean takes me for a roll or we spontaneously decide to go the thrift store or a friend comes to visit and we sit upon my porch and talk for an hour. In these moments I am reminded of the happy times in my past when I was well and I did anything I pleased. In those moments of “normalcy” I want nothing more to be in the here and now, to take in every second and let myself feel everything even the pain.
Slowly I am learning to be in the here and now even when my life isnt “normal”.
I dont want to be a tourist in my life, to constantly roam so as not to be completely here in a reality that is often painful and exhausting but also beautiful and filled with love.