Monday, December 1, 2008

Present vs. Future Tense

"The path is unchartered. It comes into existence moment by moment and at the same time drops away behind us."--Pema Chodron

One of my problems with staying in the "now" is the constant temptation to think about the future. The future used to be a series of events that got better and better, sweeter and sweeter, until everything was the way that I wanted it...I'd live in a spacious apartment in Manhattan (or Park Slope) with my family, I'd be a star employee at Random House and also a published writer, I'd be elegantly thin, well-dressed, and ageless and give memorable dinner parties for friends (memorable in a good way--not memorable because someone falls out a window.) Once I got everything perfect, it would remain so, like a picture of a fresh-faced child who in real time is almost 80.


I have some of these things, albeit in a slightly different form. I live in a modest but cozy apartment in a nice suburb of Boston, I've been working in book publishing for the last 12 years (and after three years of being employed by Random House, it wasn't the straight shot to stardom that I'd hoped for...more like a trudge through the muck of internet marketing. My former boss, however, did very well because he's an internet whiz and also scary smart), I'm thin-ish (but certainly not the stick figure I was in my twenties), and dress as well as I can under the advisement of my financial partner (re: my husband). I'd give dinner parties if we had room to seat six-eight people and if I had any friends in Boston to invite (still working on gets harder to make good friends when you're in your thirties with no children to take to the playground where the other mid-thirties women flock and chat.)

Actually, I was going to write how the future didn't end up the way I had wished, but typing this, I realize that its come darn close. How many people become exactly like their ideal self, with all the ideal trappings? And if they did, isn't that kind of boring? In my ideal scenario I imagine paying many thousands of dollars a month on the mortgage for that deluxe apartment in the sky, being harried from working long hours at Random House and dealing with office politics. I'd forever be dieting and getting plastic surgery to maintain the look of a 25 year-old me, and I'd constantly feel pressured to impress people with bigger and better dinner parties (More, larger shrimp! Rodin ice sculptures! Different china for every party! Live flamenco music!) Be careful what you wish for...

I think it's probably better not to know (or carefully plan) the future. It's a lot more fun to see how things turn out (never as well or as badly as you anticipated). I have to remind myself of this all the time. Otherwise, I sit in the corner, biting my cuticles and worrying about losing something I have or gaining something I don't want! I realize that life is a series of gaining and losing, growing and outgrowing, and that's that.

All we really have is the present moment--everything else is a dream.

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