As a child, my focus of attention was quite often on the future. I anticipated the delight of holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the 4th of July, to name a few. I anxiously awaited the time when I was old enough to go to church, or begin school – being like the big kids in my family. I longed for my first crush, my first date, my first kiss, and my first, well, you know!
I couldn’t wait until I could leave my parents home, go off to college, find a husband, get married and have children. Then with the unhappiness of my marriage, I longed for and anticipated the way out of this marriage. Once out, I anticipated my next big relationship, finishing graduate school, getting a job as a therapist…. So much of my life was lived in anticipation.
Living Life in a Constant State of Anticipation
Living life in a constant state of anticipation has been a recurring theme in our Tuesday discussion group “Aging-Who Me?” This past week, John says, “All my life I’ve lived in anticipation – always looking forward to the next terrific adventure. Now that I’m old, my anticipations are a lot smaller in scope, like anticipating my morning visit to the post office and to Teasers for coffee. These are as fulfilling today as the more fantastical adventures of my past.”
The others in the room nod their heads, acknowledging John and what he is sharing. Margaret says she has noticed that what used to get her out of bed in the morning – what she anticipated and compelled her to jump out of bed, doesn’t exist anymore. There are fewer and fewer things that excite her enough to leave the comforts of her bed, so she lingers until something gets her up.
I asked the question of the group: “We live so much of our lives in the state of anticipation – where would we be if we weren’t in anticipation?” Lorraine shouts out, “In the now!” Everyone nods their head and joins Loraine in this idea that, if we aren’t living in anticipation, then we are living in the present moment. There is a pregnant pause. Then the question that begs to be asked is: “What is it that has us choose to spend so much of our lives anticipating the future? And, what are we missing out on in the present while we are always busy mentally creating our future?”
Ellen adds, “Yes, and it isn’t that we are just anticipating positive things happening. A lot of my time is anticipating the not so good things happening. Worrying is a form of anticipation too, right?”
So in our anticipation of the good and the bad things occurring, we are not attending to who we are and what is occurring in the here and now. Many of us don’t even know how to do this. How many of us carry our cell phones anticipating the next text, email, or Facebook notification. I find this fascinating.
I wrote a book about 8 years ago called, The Unholy Path of a Reluctant Adventurer. It is a recalling of my life lived between the life I anticipated and the life I lived. I anticipated my whole life being content as a mom, wife, and just a part of the community on Niagara Falls, Ontario. I never anticipated leaving my children in the custody of their dad, living in Nova Scotia, Canada, crossing the Atlantic Ocean, getting numerous graduate degrees, including a PhD. I also never anticipated writing books, or living on Orcas Island. I never anticipated that I’d be thoroughly enjoying living in a travel trailer for 13 years. I just didn’t see any of this coming!
Somewhere between that state of anticipation and the state of being in the present moment, there must be another state of being – perhaps that meta-state I spoke about in the previous article “Game Changers – They Happen When Least Expected.” But in this state that appears to be between anticipation and living in the now, life is unfolding – I believe it is the road less traveled. It is available to us all, but few willingly explore such territory.
As we age, I believe we have more access to this state of being. With less stamina and energy, we begin to be more selective of what we wish to bring into our lives. As we age, most people say they want more peace and less angst; so they choose accordingly. The anticipation of just opening their eyes and seeing the light of day can bring as much excitement as a child anticipating Christmas. It is a challenging practice to anticipate the now, however I believe that aging provides us with the wisdom to take on this practice effortlessly.
If you’d like to join Dr. Rosie in the AGING – Who Me in-person discussions at the Orcas Island Senior Center, they are meeting this coming Tuesday – July 11th, from 10 – 11:30 a.m.