I have this kind of default way of thinking about my life that I’ve been trying to resist for a while now. I seem to always be living in the next step, living in the fantasy of the next day. So much more of my energy seems to go to tomorrow, or next week, or when X happens, and so much less of it seems to go to today, right now, this moment, my life as it is.
Often, the thing that I see as missing in my life will take on some kind of magical quality. Kate Harding calls this the Fantasy of Being Thin, but it can be the fantasy of getting married, being rich, having a baby, or just about anything that takes on this quality of “my life will be perfect if only X.” I remember as far back as middle school, thinking about a classmate of mine, “What does she have to be unhappy about? She’s got a BOYFRIEND.” After all, that was all MY life was missing, wasn’t it? If I had a BOYFRIEND then I would never be unhappy again. All of my other problems would just fade away. (Though looking back, of course, this over-focus on a boyfriend was a convenient and safe way to avoid facing some of the real dysfunction and pain in my life at home.)
A while back I started realizing how much I wasn’t living, how much my life was on hold. I was just waiting for the magical baby to arrive (shortly preceded, of course, by the magical pregnancy). I think since I got married, all of my energy has been so focused on “when I get pregnant” or “when I have a baby.” (This, too, has been to avoid facing some pain and dysfunction, but that’s a story for another day.) Since being married, my professional life hasn’t exactly gone as I would like it to and I haven’t put nearly as much effort or energy into friendships as I used to. I’ve been lonely, bored, and disconnected. All of this was ok, though, because pregnancy and baby were right around the corner, I just had to hang in there a little longer. So I didn’t really put much energy into my life, I just kind of numbed out and hung all my hopes on the magical baby.
I have been learning, slowly but surely, two steps forward, 1.5 steps back, to live my life as it is, not as my fantasies would have it. This can be hard, as the here and now is often so painful. Recently I read this piece in Exhale magazine, and it really spoke to me. The author says:
“No babies are going to solve my problems, or return to me what I feel I am ‘owed.'”
Real life doesn’t start when I get a boyfriend, or get married, or get pregnant, or have a baby. Though it may be full of pain and dysfunction, real life is right now.