If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.
I’ve always avoided borrowing things in my life (ok, except my neighbour’s tools after my ex got ours in the split) but thanks to my aunt who gave me this idiom today I realised that I borrow trouble. I borrow trouble with my negative future focus.
When I start thinking about the future I get fearful and start imagining the worst will happen, even though experience tells me that the worst never does happen. My default future focus seems to be worst case scenario. I’m still debating with myself if my fear outlook came preset at birth or if I learned it.
I grew up in the 80s and at that time the concern was nuclear weapons. Movies like Mad Max, The Terminator and Threads cast a shadow over the future for me at that time. Books I was reading in school were the likes of the Chrysalids, Brave New World and 1984. As the threat of a nuclear holocaust faded (about the time I graduated in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down), other threats rose to take their place such as the war in the Middle East and Climate Change. All my life I have taken these fears on as my own and combined them with with personal fears such as tragic death, poverty and and unhappiness.
I lived in a fearful imagined future and the worst part about it? I would change my present to avoid that future. I would alter things dramatically in the present so that imagined future would become less clear. Or I would rip the bandaid off. Ever do that? I would force the bad into the present just to get used to it. It’s no wonder I was unhappy. I was spending my present moments trying to dodge an imagined future or getting myself used to it.
Then I became aware of what I was doing. The trigger to my self awareness was my divorce and the spiral downward that accompanied it. I could not fathom how I had become so unhappy. I started to realise my thoughts were the culprit. I got a lot of help with this – from Byron Katie and my life coach.
My life coach would point out when I was thinking about the future and I started noting how miserable my future focus made me.
That was the first step. Noticing. The second step has been to come up with positive futures. This is hard. My thoughts still go to bad and I can get trapped there for a while. Today I spent a good four hours in bad future when my ex started arguing about how we would share the kids at Christmas. I immediately went to rip the bandaid off and pictured myself all alone for the entire two weeks of the Christmas break. And then I started to remember what I’m learning. I started practicing a different picture of Christmas. A good one, where I would get the kids in the morning (when they are still filled with excitement) and he would get them at dinner (when I’m usually exhausted by it all). This is what he wants. It would work.
I’ve come to this realisation after a day spent borrowing trouble. I’ll cotton on quicker in the future.