Reflecting and envisioning - peering backward and forward in time. Bookends of the human life process. Each are essential elements for understanding reality. Yet if you’re not careful, both hold trapdoors that will plunge you into delusional Neverlands of what never was or what never might be.
Mental feedback loops. We’ve all been there. Playing and replaying in your head those vivid, but ultimately unconstructive narratives. Scenarios mentally repeated over and over to the point of obsession. Yet like some artificial foodstuff packaged as healthy, in truth it’s devoid of nutritional (or in this case, spiritual) benefits. Like margarine.
Nobody’s arguing to ignore the future. Like most folks, I know how Aesop’s fable “The Ant and the Grasshopper” ends. Hint: it ain’t pretty for the grasshopper. So sure, keep an eye on the future. It’s vitally important. In fact, it’s common sense.
What’s less apparent, thanks to our oppressive cultural norms, is the rate of diminishing return for the poor, hard-working ant. And its corresponding quality of life. Compulsively toiling for a future it may or may not even be alive to experience. As such, there’s more to living than planning for a distant life that hasn’t happened and may never will.
Instead, it’s prudent to remain rooted in the present. In the end, it's the only place that matters. And just like obsessing on the future, the past can also hamper your way of being if you’re not careful – even if your past was a bright and shiny one.
See, a sunny past is addicting. Recalling your glory days as if they were yesterday when it was five, 10 or 20 years ago. A bright and successful past can cause folks to cling to an illusion. One in which what was comes to matter as much as what is.
Same with a dark past. It can be so bright that its glare overshadows the possibilities of what could be. And it can definitely swallow whole what is happening now, in the moment.
What to do?
Only you know the answer to that, but here's a clue. Look in the mirror. But get up close because sometimes that looking glass reflects back falsehoods. That's the trap.
Just like those warped circus mirrors, it can magnify and distort impressions of past successes and failures.
In the end it’s helpful to take note, celebrate or mourn what you see. But ultimately let them go. Instead of reliving the past, look at today's you. The right now you. Be the one seeking what is. Not what was or might be.
How do you achieve this? Listen close, really close.
If you do, you'll hear something. That something is a voice telling you how you feel. What you need to do. How you need to be. Where you need to go. And how you might get there. Just get quiet and you'll hear it.
Listen and discern. Then start walking. Even if, on the surface, it doesn't make sense at first. Trust yourself. Sometimes the obvious choice is the wrong one. Comfort can go stale (or run scared) in crisis. Keep that truth in mind. Then go out there and claim today’s self. It’s your destiny.
Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.