During the pandemic, I’ve fallen out of touch with a few of my favorite people, including my Future Self. I used to enjoy chatting with her often as I created new products or programs or services. She was always one of my greatest cheerleaders, but also the person I could count on to advise me with a bit of caution when the situation called for it. Since the pandemic started, I wasn’t sure if I had anything to say to my Future Self. I couldn’t imagine where my business was going or when I’d be able to travel again or whether I would even recognize her anymore.
It’s understandable why my Present Self has stolen most of my attention lately. She’s grappling with heavy emotions and strategic puzzles and everything from boredom to aggravation. She’s overwhelmed and troubled and in need of extra TLC. A good deal of my energy goes toward trying to keep up her spirits.
And my Past Self has been surfacing a lot lately too. She just wants to reminisce about trips I took that are forbidden to me now, or times when I could gather freely with friends and family with no fear, or about collaborations that seemed promising only a few months ago and now seem impossible. Going back to all my Zen reading, I remind my Past Self that it’s better to stay in the moment. This moment, right now, is life. This is what matters. Sometimes that quiets her for a bit, but not for long.
Yesterday, I started missing my Future Self. I asked from her perspective, what does this experience really mean for me? She said, “Teresa, someday you’re going to look back on this time and say, ‘If it hadn’t been for COVID, I never would have . . .’ It doesn’t really matter at the moment how you’d finish that sentence, but know that you will finish it someday. You’re going to see this as a time of challenges, yes, but also of opportunities. You might continue to grieve some losses, but you’ll also be able to see how you’ve grown. But in order to get there, you have to start believing in the future again even if you can’t exactly imagine how it might look.”
Recently, I was listening to an Esther Hicks video. She said once you put a desire out into the universe and it enters the vortex, it’s there. Even if you don’t move immediately toward that desire, your “placeholders” will hold as long as it takes. Maybe you need some time to cycle through all the things you don’t want before you can arrive at the things you do. Or maybe you need more time to feel the proper amount of confidence and passion. Or maybe life will throw you a major curveball and you’ll need to figure out how to work around that. But all of that is moving you in the right direction.
I see great wisdom in the advice that tells us to live in the now. But so much of what we do now is informed by the decisions –good and bad—we made in the past and even more so by the hopes we have for the future. Live in the now, yes, and make the most of it, but honor all the past steps that brought you to this place, and trust that, even when it feels like you’ve stalled out, you’re still moving in the direction of your dreams. It’s not a straight line from desire to goal. It’s a zig-zag course.
I think I stopped talking to my Future Self because I was afraid to get too hopeful. I mean, the death toll from the virus is still climbing, unemployment is high, certain industries are barely surviving, there’s social unrest in the country, and political turmoil. It seemed more important to buckle down and try to figure out how to “get through this” than it did to hope things would someday be better. As a historian I should have known better. After every major calamity in history, the world changes greatly. Some things are lost and some things are gained. We may not know exactly how this experience is going to change us, but there’s no doubt we have been changed.
I asked my Future Self what to do with those goals I had that no longer seem feasible, and she said, “The goal is and always was the desire not the product or service or program. The desire was to do good, to inspire, to build a place of peace and hope and respect. That’s what you put out in the universe. How you do that has changed many times in the past and will change again in the future. It’s changing now and that’s okay. If you hang in there, in no time you’ll be able to finish this sentence: ‘If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, I never would have . . .’”
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