“There are two ways to face the future. One way is with apprehension: the other is with anticipation.” – Jim Rohn
I have no idea who Jim Rohn is, but my friend gave me a gift recently that has all of these fun and inspiring types of quotes in them and she handed this particular one to me yesterday. After reading it, it just hit me how strange life can be and how it can give you something you didn’t even know you needed.
The future is always so unknown and changing with every choice that we make or don’t make. And yet, we manage to stress about it and overthink it and over-plan it and think that if we don’t hit some “milestone” by a certain time, then we’re not “adulting” correctly. Doesn’t that just sound so exhausting? If we’re doing all of that, then we truly aren’t focused on ourselves and making sure we’re happy, healthy, and really living.
I recently hit a point in my life where I was forced to finally face my reality rather than the twisted and manipulated version I was trying to sell myself. As if I was one of those late night infomercial people trying to sell myself a knife that cuts through soda cans. Yet, it’s late at night and we’ve been staring at the TV for so long that our couch cushion has taken on the form of our own butt and we convince ourselves, “Why yes, I do need this knife.” We completely disregard the fact that we have a perfectly good (and sharp) knife set sitting on our counters already and we truly have never, ever come across any opportunity in which we need to cut through a soda can, but we convince ourselves anyway. We tell ourselves that if we get this knife, then our lives will change in some manner for the better and we’ll be happier.
That’s not the reality, though, is it? The reality is that we order the knife and if it even gets to you without a complicated mess, it’s never what you thought it would be. While it can slice a strawberry and a carrot and a chicken breast like no other, it doesn’t slice easily through the can. It hacks away at it as if you’re trying to bring down a fully grown oak tree… or the Whomping Willow (Seriously, surprised it took me this long to incorporate any Harry Potter into a post. You’re welcome). We end up staring at the knife in disappointment, telling ourselves that we did this to ourselves so we have to fix it. We find a way to justify it to ourselves. Why do we constantly do this? How do we stop?
Face your own damn reality. For me, it was finally facing the fact that a relationship in my life was not yielding nicely sliced soda cans. It was giving me hacked in half, will probably cut your finger if you pick it up, soda cans. And I was telling myself that if I changed the way that I held the can or held the knife or if I cut it vertically rather than horizontally that it would yield the result that I wanted. I told myself everything but the reality: this knife is no longer bringing me what I want in my life. Do I want to live continuously trying to make a knife work the way I think it should rather than accepting that it just doesn’t and probably never will?
It’s a lot tougher to think that and accept that thought because it means that we can’t control it. It’s so easy for us to blame ourselves because if it’s something we are doing incorrectly then it is something that we can change. It makes sense that way. “Oh, this isn’t working because I’m doing something wrong so I will just figure out a different way to do it and then it’ll be fine!”
Okay, say it is a user error. Say you figure out that you were holding the knife wrong, the can needs to be secured so it’s not rolling away, and if you do it when the sun is at its highest point in the sky on the third Thursday of every month then there is no way it can go wrong. So you get trained by a world class chef on how to handle a knife, you secure the can, and you wait until the third Thursday at high noon. You’re full of optimism because how could it possibly go wrong now?! You’ve prepared and you’ve thought of every scenario that could make this go wrong and tackled it. The only logical conclusion to this is that the knife will slice easily through the can, right?
So you slice… and the knife slips and you end up cutting yourself. COOL. Reality check: it’s not about YOU. It was never about you and it will never be about you. It’s the knife. It doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to no matter what you do differently. And what is it called when you do the same thing over and over again but expect a different result? Insanity. And we aren’t insane, are we? No, I didn’t think so.
So what did I do for myself? I put down the knife. Several times. Don’t get me wrong, I kept picking it back up and seeing if it would work… often. It just didn’t make sense how something made to do a certain thing and yield a certain result wasn’t doing it. It’s why we continue to try. We’re in the habit of trying and not giving up because it feels uncomfortable and wrong to just stop trying. We’ve grown accustomed to this knife being able to cut through fruits and vegetables but not soda cans.
It’s not that it’s not working, it’s just not working the way that we wanted or expected.
At some point, I finally accepted that while it’s weird or foreign to not have the knife, it’s less stressful and better for me to just realize it’s not what I want anymore. No matter how difficult it was to break the habit, it was better for me if I did.
What does any of this rambling monologue of mine have to do with the quote I started out with? Well, I’ll tell ya. *cue lasers and dramatic music and echo* The future (future) (future)! We keep certain habits, even when they’re bad for us, because at least we know what’s coming. We are comforted by the same results, even when negative. So when we stop, we’re faced with a fuzzy, out of focus future and we suddenly feel like we’re trying to pick up toothpicks off the floor with chopsticks. We get tunnel vision and see only the toothpicks and the chopsticks. We are apprehensive about how it’s all going to unfold when things look this strange.
No, seriously, stop it. Take it from someone who just had a refresher course in this. Stop. Breathe. Good. This is where we need to change our perspective and realize that we can still get what we want. It doesn’t have to be scary, it’s just new. New is good. Try not to feel apprehensive, embrace the anticipation of what is in store for you. Remember what you learned from the past and take this time to do things differently. For instance, watch reruns of Friends on Netflix until it asks you if you’re still watching (Yes, I’m still watching, why are you asking me? Why do you care? I’m here for good, Netflix.), rather than infomercials at 2am. Now, put down the chopsticks and grab a broom. Sweep up the toothpicks and throw them out. Then pick up the phone and call for Chinese food. Put those chopsticks to better use.
And remind yourself that the future is supposed to be fuzzy and out of focus. If we zero in on one specific thing constantly, we miss the other things that happen around us. Who knows, maybe the knife gets recalled because the one you got was from a defective batch. So they send you a new one and this time… it works exactly as you wanted. But even if you continue on without a soda can cutting knife, you still have the perfectly good (and sharp) knife set you originally had and it’s working exactly the way that you want and expect. You finally realized that you didn’t need to cut up soda cans anyway.