Rehearsing the Future
In August, I packed up all my belongings in Chicago and embarked on a cross-country trip with three of my girlfriends in an RV. Our first destination was Oregon to see the eclipse followed by a week at Burning Man. Packing up my apartment, I was nervous. I’ve lived alone for the past four years.
Personal space is something that isn’t a luxury- it’s a necessity like air or water.
I run them in my head like a playbook. Going from having hours of alone time to being constantly surrounded by people was going to be a big adjustment.I don’t like change - I’m the girl who will hold onto an old tee-shirt because of nostalgia. As I packed, I went through my closet, pulling out clothes to donate. I’d find a “vintage” shirt and pause – keep or donate. I wore it that one time that nice thing happened to me. Or what if I need it? What if I miss it and regret giving it away? That same pattern crept up around leaving Chicago.
I had been wanting to move for years, but when I would start making plans, I’d start to miss the apartment I was currently in.
These windows are so nice. I’m going to miss these windows. I’ll stay for another six months then I’ll be ready to miss these windows. Yearly, I would tell everyone that I was going to leave Chicago - soon. I’ll move in six months, I’m not ready to miss it yet, I’d think, until five years had passed.Now, it was time to uproot my life and move out of Chicago. The amount of things I imagined I was going to miss was overwhelming: my apartment, my friends, my bed, my alone time, my car, Chicago, my favorite coffee shop, my weekly Tuesday dinners – the list was endless.
Intuitively, I had known for years that I had outgrown Chicago. I felt stuck both physically and emotionally.
Wouldn’t it be terrible to not have my own apartment? Wouldn't I miss everything? The made-up future of what life without my own apartment would be like coupled with my tendency for nostalgia had me in stuck. It dawned on me that if I didn’t make a decision, I would stay stuck in Chicago forever, always waiting for the perfect time to leave.
It was my fearful imagination that was telling me how I was going to feel in the future and it was stopping me all this time.
“Sure, I might miss these windows” I thought but I had to remind myself – “I am currently looking out of the window, psycho. It’s right here. Stop missing it and get present with your current experience, not the experience you think you might have in the future.” I see this often with my clients - when we are faced with change, especially big changes – new beginnings, moves, new jobs, breaks ups, - good or bad,
instead of being present with our current experience, we imagine what our future is going to be like and start living there.
We think, “I’m going to feel (sad/uncomfortable/scared/tired)” and start to try to mollify our reactive attitudes as if they were real. When this happens it paralyses us, affecting our ability to make positive choices because often we shy away from feelings that aren’t that great. We delay decisions – decide to do it later, strategize how we can minimize the impact.
We think we’re smart enough to think our way out of whatever we’re confronted with.
Our intuition persists, gently reminding us of the decisions we want to make but are too afraid to act. The kicker is that we take so much time and energy thinking about how we can plan our way out of feeling, we prologue the experience, exaggerating what might happen.
The longer we wait to make the decision, the more energy builds up and the more intense it becomes.
We assume that whatever leap we’re going to take is going to be difficult and then prep for how hard it’s going to be. We batten down the emotional hatches, ready for the storm to move in, but what if it never comes?
Fortunately, our intuition (our Spirit) ignores these fears, pushing us forward anyway, past our resistance, past our fears and past our discomforts, and gently encouraging us to make the decisions we want to make in our hearts, in spite of our reservations. My Spirit told me I needed to move out of Chicago.
Once I stopped romanticizing the windows and got present with my experience, it was no longer so intense.
The storm that I predicted, the one where I was going to weep uncontrollably when I left my beautiful apartment in Chicago and donated all those shirts I wore when that one things happened, didn’t happen.
When I turned in my keys to my landlord and said goodbye, I wasn’t emotional at all. It felt right and grounded and my brain was confused. You’re not supposed to feel like this, you’re supposed to be sad. But, I wasn’t. I don't miss my windows nor did I miss my personal space that I thought was a non-negotiable. I didn’t miss the tee shirts either.
Once I was present, what was real was that I was okay.
Two months into my new adventure, RV and all, I am still okay, and having a great adventure. Now, whatever comes my way, I’m confident I’ll deal with it one present moment at a time and if I forget, I’ll just remind myself what it was like to finally leave Chicago.