Hello fellow ‘fringe dwellers’. You may or may not remember me from an article I did awhile ago for Wayne, entitled “An Amateur’s Guide to Being’. If I know Wayne, you can find it back to the index by searching my index.
Lately I’ve been thinking about one of those points, that said “Don’t make a religion out of a moment”. What was niggling at me was the flip-side of this particular coin.
The process of ‘de-religious-izing’ my moments has been a long and conscious act for me. I have managed to romanticize a plethora of moments into these wonderful, meaningful epiphanies. The kind of scenes that have gauze over them when filmed in movies. Perhaps you know what I mean:
The happenstance of a particular song coming on at a particular moment, where I just say ‘oh, that was MEANT to be’ (or more precisely, meant for me. I have a unique ability to be romantic and arrogant in the exact same space).
A moment of revelation where I see myself, and promptly turn it into a sermon on how self-aware I am, to be told to as many people as possible, as grandly as possible (in these moments I’ve sloughed off the romance part, and just stuck with arrogance). Whatever learning there might have been in that moment of clarity is soon buried under a load of descriptives and self-congratulatory ravings.
Staying in a moment (for whatever reason) and declaring myself present because of it. Yet the longer I stay in this moment, the less present I become.
Perhaps you get my meaning. So with the help of places like The Haven, and beings like the wizened dwarf (Hi Wayne!) I’ve started a process of moving through my moments and seeing them for just that. Moments. Doesn’t work every day, but most days I catch myself.
As I did this I started to notice the other side of this particular pattern of mine. What about moments that aren’t so grand, don’t make such nice little stories? What about moments I am dreading, or am afraid of, and so want to avoid? So there comes a corollary to the initial point: Don’t paralyse myself by thinking a moment I have created anxiety around will last forever.
I realized that throughout my life I have played out the drama of what I imagine to be a difficult moment, prior to it happening. And then I assume that the moment will last forever. And so I avoid it all costs so that it never actually happens. I recently left a long-term relationship (otherwise known as a ‘marriage’). Upon doing so, it became obvious to me that I had been avoiding doing this for a long time. And mostly because I did not want to face the actual moment of having to say ‘I’m leaving’.
Not ONLY was I afraid of not being liked in that moment, but I catastrophized it to the point that I thought it would last the rest of my life. Similarly, having to tell my children that the relationship was ending would — in my mind ‑traumatize them forever, leaving them with nothing but hate for the rest of their lives (Are we detecting a deep narcissistic tendency here? I’ll go there in another article).
And in one respect I was accurate. All parties concerned were upset in the moment as they were in it. And then here’s the profound part:
They got over it (or rather, they got over me).
That’s right. My ex-wife moved on quite nicely, and my children recovered without irreparable harm. The moment didn’t last forever. Because, after all, it is only a moment. I find myself thinking “how many times have I avoided / imagined / rationalized not dealing with something, because I have catastrophized the immediate into the eternal?” The answer is a lot. Small things like giving feedback, medium things like talking to a bill collector, large things like ending a relationship. All of it tainted by thinking like ‘oh my god, they’ll hate me forever.”
My tendency to romance my ‘good’ moments could not help but calamitize the ‘bad’ ones. I stuck in being stuck; trying to create an eternal present out of an already fading past. And I find myself marvelling at how I allowed it to colour every decision I made in my life. Mostly by not making them, and waiting for someone else to make them for me. I get nauseous just thinking about it.
Like any addict, I’m in recovery. I take it one day at a time. The secret? For me its about clear intention. Why am I doing this, in this moment, and how does it serve me? And then letting go of ‘this moment’ and being open to the next. I thought it would be scary, but it isn’t — by romanticizing / catastrophizing I was creating the future, instead of letting it fold out in front of me.
And I’ll be damned if haven’t found out that not knowing the future is a hell of a lot of fun.