Monday, February 11, 2013

The Hazards of Time Travel

I was re reading my last post and I realized that I didn't do a very good job explaining who my friend is. I think I came across a bit harsh and judgmental about her take on her son and his future. In fact, my words sounded quite blaming....and that was not my intention. My friend is a wonderful person and a dedicated and involved parent who wants the best for her son. I have always enjoyed my interaction with her and although we do not see each other often, when we do come together, I find her to be a fun and enlightening person. In some ways, I guess this is my point. This conversation is not about good or bad...or right or is not about judging parents or accusing them of being over involved ( Don't get me started on the whole "helicopter parent" theme.....can we be anymore judgmental toward parents?). My point is that in our society there exists certain themes and messages that we accept as gospel. These narratives become so ingrained in our consciousness that we do not ever stop and ask if there is any evidence that they are true. If we were to thoroughly explore the content of these societal stories, we might find that they are not only not based in fact, but they serve to create a level of worry and anxiety that is not needed, and yet, can feel overwhelming. 

Have you ever stopped to think about the temporal aspect of our thinking and feeling? Where does your mind dwell? If you have a tendency to dwell in the past, there is a good chance that you experience your fair share of sadness, regret and depression. If your mind spends most of its time thinking about the future, you probably experience worry and anxiety. I can't tell you how often my thoughts take me to both my past and my future. Now some of you might be thinking that there is a benefit to exploring both "time zones." This is true to a point. We can learn much about moving forward by assessing our past and the best goal setting requires attention to how I would like my future to look. At the end of the day, this really becomes about two issues.  First, how much time do I spend dwelling in the past or the future? Second, does this endeavor prove to be a productive use of my time and energy?

The "I worry about my child's future" theme is an excellent example from which you can self assess. How much time do you spend ruminating over this thought? What is the emotional cost? What is the level of worry and anxiety that you experience? Is this a productive use of your time? The question of "productive use of time" is the fascinating question for me......probably because I am so often guilty of this. A colleague of mine refers to worry as "time well wasted." If you think about this statement, you will see the truth in it. I don't know about you, but very rarely does my worry result in a "change in reality" as the things I worry about, especially when it comes to my children, are out of my control. I can not make things happen in my children's lives, only they can! They are in total control of their choices, behaviors and lives. It is just a fantasy that us parents like to participate in that we can "control" our children. It's almost like belief in this magical power substantiates my worry. If I believe that my worry, no matter how much time and energy I invest in it, will not result in changes in my child's life, changes only they can make, then, at the end of the day, what is the productivity of my worry? I can extrapolate this line of thinking to any topic that requires me to spend an inordinate amount of time dwelling in the past or the future.

Some of you are probably thinking that it is impossible to not worry about your children. I agree wholeheartedly! In fact, if any of you can figure out how not to spend a significant amount of time and energy worrying about your children, will you please write a book!!!!! I will be the first to buy it!!!!! For me, this has becomes less about beating myself up for hanging out at either end of my life calendar......I consistently find myself in both places.And if I am honest , when I am there, I am engaged in some combination of regret and worry, neither being a productive use of my time. I now simply want to commit myself to stepping out of the time tunnel for even a few minutes a day.

What I now attempt to focus on is increasing the amount of time that I spend in the here and now. I find this to be quite stop my emotional time traveling and just enjoy the moment. More and more is being written about the many practices that fall under the heading of mindfulness. I think in terms of patience and stillness. These concepts remind me to not go into the past or the future....just STOP and spend a moment in the present. I do not practice this as consistently as I would like yet, but I am improving. My goal is to not let a day go by that I do not carve out at least one 10 minute span of time to just sit with my thoughts and feelings, not judge them, not judge myself, not regret, not worry, just be.

Are you worth 10 minutes a day?

Check out this video from mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe.......

I wish you purpose, passion and peace!


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