Crossing Paths with Futures Past

Have you ever run into someone you once thought you’d have a bright future with, but it didn’t work out? It’s a very disconcerting feeling. You are standing there in your present, getting a glimpse of a life you could have had. You’re peeking down a parallel timeline.

It’s a very bittersweet feeling. It reminds me of that scene in The Way We Were when Barbra Streisand runs into Robert Redford with his new love and says to him, “Your girl is lovely, Hubbell.” That movie always makes me cry. Memories…

But such encounters can also be a stark reality check. On more than one occasion I’ve come away from them thinking, “Whew! I dodged that bullet!” Because it’s blatantly obvious that the person in question is not in a place where I’d want to be. Perhaps their health has deteriorated, or they’re now abusing a substance, or they’ve moved to a hellish location, or they’ve become inexplicably obsessed with collecting traffic cones. No thanks.

If you’ve been pining away for that person, absorbing this new reality into your worldview might take some time. But what a relief to no longer pine. Pining takes a lot of energy. (That, and the sap is hard to get out of your hair.)

I suggest that when confronted with loves past, you take that opportunity to assess, and hopefully appreciate, where you are now. Now is your reality, and hopefully it is your gift. Your life could have unfolded in a multitude of ways, but here you are.

Having done that, resist the urge to tell that person, “This happiness could have been yours, you big dummy.” It might be satisfying, but in the end, it doesn’t do anyone any good. Life has a funny way of going on. (And for all you know, he or she is thinking the same thing.)

Most of all, crossing paths with futures past should make you aware of how many options you have. You can’t control other people, of course, but you have a multitude of opportunities to write your story in the best possible way, even if it isn’t going the way you once predicted that it would.

Good luck, dear reader!

The Way We Were

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Freeway Space

Every career field seems to have its own nomenclature. When I was getting my degree in Dental Laboratory Technology and Management, I had to learn a whole host of new words and phrases. My all-time favorite was “Freeway Space.”

Freeway space is that gap between your upper and lower teeth that naturally occurs when your jaw is relaxed. When making dentures, for example, you always have to allow for freeway space. Otherwise the poor unfotunate who wears them will never be comfortable.

The funny thing about that is that I had never even realized that my teeth aren’t touching most of the time. We really don’t spend much time thinking about the spaces in between, the gaps, the absence of things. We can barely wrap our heads around the things that are present.

In this case, though, it makes perfect sense. We wouldn’t want our teeth to be constantly grinding, grinding, grinding on each other. (For that, I simply have to go to sleep. Thank goodness for night guards!) All that friction, and we’d be toothless in no time.

But mostly, I just like the idea of freeway space. It sounds like such a laid back place to be. Free. The way. Spacey. Give me my freeway space.

I once had a Tai Chi instructor who would say, at the end of class, “Don’t forget to put a love bubble around your car.” It was his way of telling us to drive carefully. It used to make me inwardly snicker. As much as I love cheese, that concept was just a bit too cheesy for me.

But if he had said, “Give yourself some freeway space,” I’d have said, “Dude. Yeah. I will. Thanks.”

And my jaw would have instantly relaxed.

freeway

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Time Passes

Here’s why I could never commit suicide: I know, for better or for worse, that I am not stuck in this present moment. Things will get better. Yeah, they might also get worse. But the point is, it’s all unbelievably temporary. Change is inevitable.

The reason I’ve been able to endure all this home buying and relocation stress is that I was able to keep telling myself that this time next month, then next week, then tomorrow…I’d be done with all of that. And sure enough, I am. Now it’s time to focus on unpacking stress. And while that sucks, too, at least I know everything is here. Somewhere. In some box or another. I forget where. But it’s here. Really. It is. It has to be.

The more life you live, the more you realize that the pendulum swings back and forth. If you don’t like the point in the arc that you are currently experiencing, just wait. You’ll be gone from there in no time.

That knowledge also makes me value the now. It feels all the more precious because it’s going to be gone in a flash. Sometimes I feel the need to stop dead in my tracks and just take everything in. Breathe the air. Feel the sun on my face. Watch and listen to everything that’s happening around me.

Every moment is as unique and fragile as a snowflake. Personally, I want to stick around for as long as I can, because the snowflakes of life are infinitely fascinating to me. It would be a shame to miss even one of them.

snowflake

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Continuity

I read something recently that I found very comforting. The same sunrise/sunset has been circling the globe for millions of years. Mind officially blown.

I love the idea that my sunset is someone else’s sunrise. It gives me a sense of connection with the wider world. It links me to all of time, past, present and future.

I also enjoy the perspective this gives me. The thing that is causing me stress and anxiety today is a mere blip on the sun’s radar. Talk about not sweating the small stuff! Here I am, one tiny little person, in one tiny little point in time, worrying about one tiny little thing.

It also makes change seem trivial. That multi-million year sunrise has looked different every single day, for every single person, and it will look different again tomorrow. And yet it still keeps on keeping on.

Despite our mortality, despite the havoc we wreak, on a larger scale there is stability and continuity. Life will go on, in some form or fashion, somewhere, some time. We are each just one thread in a vast, complex tapestry.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

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Facing Forward

I’m on the brink of amazing change, and it all stemmed from a giraffe. You just never know when a figurative cue ball will send your eight ball careening off in an entirely different direction. That’s what makes life so exciting.

I have been watching April the Giraffe’s live feed on Youtube since February. I watched her pregnant belly as the baby kicked. I watched any number of contractions. She kept me company at least 8 hours a day. She became a big part of my life. So when I woke up on April 15th to discover that the birth was in progress, I got really, really excited.

Unfortunately, I still had to go to work. I broke all land speed records getting there, believe you me! And then I immediately logged back on again. Fortunately, the front hooves and the head where the only things that had made it into the world up to that point, so I got to watch the rest of the birth, live.

I’m not ashamed to say I cried some ugly, joyful tears when her calf finally made his entrance, and even more when he stood up an hour later. Life, man. Life! You know? What a miracle it is.

And just like that, I realized I hadn’t been living, not really, for quite some time. It occurred to me that life is like a flowing river, and we float downstream with it. As we go, we see things come toward us and we experience them and then they recede into the past.

But that’s only if you’re facing forward. Many things can cause you to face backwards. Trauma. Grief. Fear. Depression. They all cause you to focus on the past. And if you’re like me, you get stuck there, and try to recreate the past in your present. You want to get back to where you were before everything went so wrong.

The problem with that is you’re still floating down the river. Life goes on. But now you’re not seeing it. Because you’re facing backwards, by the time current events flash past your peripheral vision, they’re already a thing of the past. That’s no way to live.

Time to face forward again. Live in the present. Plan for the future. And don’t do so as half a person, presenting yourself to the world as a broken shadow of your former self.

For example, if you’re grieving, don’t avoid music or experiences that you shared with the person you lost. Why are you narrowing your horizons like that? Would the person you lost want you to only be half of yourself? No. You’re still alive, and to have healthy relationships moving forward, you need to be able to give the next person ALL of you. Yes, grief changes you, and that’s okay. But it shouldn’t limit you, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for continuing down the stream.

So I’m making a conscious effort to face forward again. I’m house hunting, and I’m exercising, and I’m eating right. I’m trying really hard to live in the now. Because life is happening right now, and it’s a precious and limited commodity. I plan to make the most of it, rather than putting it on hold.

And I got all that from a giraffe. Imagine that.

As my friend Carole likes to say, “Onward and upward, into the future!”

river-tubing.jpg

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Plan “Be”

I can’t remember where I read about this concept, but it appeals to me greatly. Just be. Live in the now. Don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. Pure bliss.

It’s not as easy as it looks, though. For example, I’m in the midst of planning my vacations for the year. Obviously, that’s future stuff. And I came across my diary from high school, and have been reading it. Past stuff.

Much of this blog is about past experience or future dreams. And I’m a little stressed because I’ve been sick as a dog for the past few days, so I don’t have as many future blog entries waiting in the queue as I usually do.

Past, Future…see how many times I’ve bounced from one to the other in just the PAST few paragraphs? Why is it so hard to stay in the present? Do we not value it as much?

In truth, the present is the only thing that is real. The way we remember the past changes over time, and we view it through our own biased lens. As for the future, it may not come about. You could be hit by a bus tomorrow.

Heaven knows that the way I had my life plotted out in my high school diary certainly never came to be. Sometimes I look in the mirror and say to myself, “How the hell did you get here?” Sometimes that’s an angry question. Other times it’s infused with gratitude and awe.

But there I go again, reflecting on the past. I’ll have to work on that. Sometime in the future…

past future

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Awkward

It’s really strange when a spotlight gets shined on a portion of your past and everyone assumes that what was true then is true now. Are you the same person you were 30 years ago, or even 7 years ago? I’m here to tell you that I am not.

Ever since my 2009 StoryCorps interview got included in the anthology Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work, I’ve experienced this firsthand. The publicity has been amazing. Spotlights galore.

At the time, the person that interviewed me was my boyfriend John. At the end of the interview, they took a picture of the two of us. Now that picture and our relationship status are both immortalized in print.

This is awkward. Not only have we long since broken up, but John is now happily married. And I’m told by friends that, based on some things that he has posted on his Facebook page, he hates me and wishes I’d drop dead.

That makes me sad for him that he holds on to such bitterness. He was never very good at getting over things. I, on the other hand, feel that the person I am today is a product of all my past experiences, both good and bad, and am therefore grateful for all of it, every single second. If I hadn’t been there once upon a time, I wouldn’t be here now. And I happen to love here.

I look at that old picture of the two of us in the book, and I kind of have to cringe. As much as I loved my job, I was fat and miserable about my life in general. I look at myself and can see how unhealthy I was. It was an unhealthy situation. I barely recognize myself. And yet now that photo is in print, forevermore. If you google my name these days, it’s one of the first pictures that pops up. Ah well. What are you gonna do, right?

This almost makes me feel sorry for public figures when past skeletons are exposed in their closets. Almost. Not quite.

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