Also posted on Huffington Post
Does it feel like everyone is talking about living in the moment lately? Or are they just talking about it to me because they notice how far in the future I spend my time? I feel like everyone around me read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment while I was busy planning my 80th birthday party or something.
There’s all this mumbo jumbo which has been going around forever, about living for the present because the past and the future can only be accessed in our minds; so they’re imaginary, not actually real. It’s about always being focussed on where you are, in the moment, when everything that’s real is right in front of you. As opposed to drifting away with the future fairies or past pixies who serve you tea laced with worry and cupcakes of regret.
Advocates of “the now” say stuff like “why stress about hypotheticals?” And those of us who brunch with fay are like “because if I don’t worry about who I’m going to marry, I might end up like my parents”. They say it’s not healthy to dwell on things that happened in the past, like Hitler. Nor stress about a future where Donald Trump is prezzie of the United States. Because putting your thoughts and energy into what was, or what might be, means you’re missing real life and all the cool shit in front of you, right now. Like springtime, or your freshly waxed legs.
My boyfriend is always on my case about my mind being in London instead of at the dinner table. And my mum wants me to be happy today, and not worried about what’s going to happen tomorrow. I’m pretty stubborn and always right so it’s taken me a while to realise that perhaps I do live too much in my own future fantasies. I know it’s not cool and I don’t want to keep visiting a world I’m alone in, but here’s the thing: it’s very hard because I’m a highly imaginative being.
My imagination is the power behind my drive for life and I use it often to dream, plan and inspire action. It’s the reason I’ve had the jobs and opportunities I have and for all the travel I’ve done – in fact, one of the only reasons I have friends is probably because I dream about how fun something might be, plan it and force everyone to come. My imagination is my source of creativity. Creativity is defined by psychological scientists as the generation of ideas or products that are both original and valuable. And creativity won’t work without imagination, which is defined as “the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.” And that can be the ultimate clash for someone trying to live in the moment.
I’ve been living in fantasy world’s since I was small. My favourite games were the ones where I was someone else, somewhere else; fighting baddies with ninja skills or running away from abusive parents to live in the jungle. And my need to imagine and create fantasies followed me into my adulthood and pushed me into acting and writing classes, TV Production jobs and creative advertising work. An imagination is a wonderful thing and opens the doors to many possibilities, but on the flip side, it can make you a bit cray.
I’m a sucker for creating problems out of nothing because I’m worried something bad might happen. I’m less trusting of people because my imagination creates a list of dramatic scenarios where they could betray me. I’m a hypochondriac because I conjure up stories of illness, contraction and how my life is going to end. And I have trouble living in the moment because my mind is always somewhere else; imagining, dreaming, thinking, planning.
But not all hope is lost for me and other imaginative folk out there. The good news is that as long as we are conscious, we can control our thoughts. People have the psychological power to choose what they think about. Fact. And although it can be uncomfortable to let go of some thoughts – at risk of feeling like you will lose control of a situation because you’re not thinking about it – you should actually gain a stronger sense of control.
So I’ve been told by all these namby pamby live-for-the-now-know-it-alls, anyway.
And I’ve come to a bit of a realisation that if I can learn to control my imagination, and pull up a spot in the now, then I may be able to shake this constant state of waiting that I find myself in. Because when you’re thinking too far into the future about what you want to happen, you’re always waiting. And if you’ve ever stood in a line, you’ll agree that waiting is boooooring.