Have you noticed how easy it is to slip “when things get back to normal” into your thoughts and conversations?
I mean, this year, it’s easy enough to think about all the things that we would like to do, but can’t, that are put on hold due to current circumstances, like travel and large events and celebrations, like weddings.
When we can’t do something, for whatever reason it’s not available, we dream about, think about and eagerly look forward to when we can. When I broke my foot, I was both literally and figuratively painfully aware of all the things I missed doing that required the ability to walk.
It just makes sense to look forward to things we’re looking forward to, period. So it makes sense, of course, especially during a prolonged global catastrophe, that we would all be looking forward to a time that is past all this confusion, restriction and anxiety.
For us, living through a pandemic, that looks like us looking eagerly forward to the time when we’re through this ordeal, and visualizing All The Things we will do on the other side of the predicament in which we currently find ourselves.
Most of my own “once-this-is-over” daydreaming tends to involve travel, and specifically to locations that I can’t imagine visiting while a virus runs rampant, like theme parks, where people are everywhere, and we’re all touching the same things (it’s gross to think about at the best of times, and I always go through a lot of hand sanitizer, plague or no).
As much as I’d love to escape away to the fun and fantasy of a Disney park (literally any day ever), knowing that I’m not going for a while means that I imagine a time when I will be there, and nostalgically recall past experiences. Since I’m certainly not going anywhere—least of all am I Disney bound—while this pandemic is happening, dreaming about being in The Happiest Place on Earth is a dream about when this pandemic is a thing of the past, as opposed to my present reality.
Right now, we’re all just doing our best to tread water and get through what we’re going through, which happens to be a shared global experience. But this tendency isn’t pandemic specific, is it? How often do we find ourselves wishing for a future that is past our current reality?
“Once my kids are both in school, then I can…”
“Once my kids have all graduated, then I’ll be able to…”
“I just need to get through this day/week/quarter…”
“Once I lose this weight, I’ll wear/feel amazing/love myself…”
“Once I get that promotion/raise/bigger house/new car…”
How often do you find yourself imagining a future that hinges on a set of circumstances that are not the ones you’re currently experiencing?
How often are you putting off enjoying this moment, right now, and the life you have created, because it’s not the version you wish you were living?
Now, repeat after me: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with visualizing. In fact, it’s an essential and sadly often-overlooked step in intentionally creating our lives. There’s a difference though, between visualizing the life you want to be creating, and wistfully daydreaming about the life you wish you were living, instead of the one you have created (oh, yes, you have created it).
In your fascination with the life you wish you had, though, don’t miss the life you are living.
Because this is it. This moment, with all its wonders and all its sorrows, is a chapter in your story. This is what you get. This isn’t a draft or a rehearsal for something to come. It is the brief and uncertain time you have been given.
This time is not simply a thing we must persevere and get through, while it simultaneously is something we must persevere and will get through. This isn’t a chapter to skip. This is our story. This is our time. This is our lives, and while it’s totally understandable, normal and human to wish we could speed through the hard parts, our tendency to do that has us rushing headfirst through our lives, hurtling towards our graves. And, truly, we will all be there soon enough, and then it will be time for someone else’s story.
All too often, we resign ourselves to the lives we’re living while dreaming of a different existence, but without taking action in service of creating it. We spend our time wishing and dreaming for something else that we’re not willing to try to create, or don’t truly believe is possible.
If you’re waiting for this to pass—whatever “this” is: the pandemic, pre-school parenting, etc—that’s okay, and normal. But just remember, if you can’t be here now with what you’re currently experiencing, finding small moments of joy, or peace, or whatever you’re seeking, then you’re likely to miss it moving forward, too, even if you get everything you want.
This is it.