“The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment.” ~Pema Chodron
This quote reminds me of the song “Into the Great Wide Open” by Tom Petty. I play that song in my yoga class a lot these days. I love the freedom in it, the expansiveness, the hope.
My future is completely open and I am writing it moment by moment.
Phew! This feels good!
For a long time, I thought my future was pre-ordained.
My dad died at 38 when I was 8. What was I supposed to think besides this is when we die: at age 38.
Today is my birthday. Today I turn 37.
I was never able to visualize my future.
People would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up and I couldn’t answer. Nothingness on my end. Blank stares. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a morbid kid; I just saw a black cloud or fuzz or nothing when people asked me questions regarding any moment beyond the present. And yet, I was not present. It was a conundrum to say the least.
But you are such a great writer, Jen. You should be a writer when you grow up, Jen.
Nothing. Couldn’t imagine it.
Stop talking to me about my future. I already know what will happen and it doesn’t involve me writing.
I didn’t know what exactly happened when you turned 38 except: you didn’t exist anymore, so how in the heck was I going to be a writer?
I got a little older and a little wiser, and yet still, I couldn’t plan for anything. People would ask me what I was doing for the summer and I would have a panic attack.
I had a very hard time being able to imagine myself beyond the chair I was sitting in.
It was like I had a crippling fear of planning a future, any future at all, because I knew what was in store for me. I didn’t know when my time would come, but I knew it was in my genes.
I realized that I had a deep core belief that happiness was taken away from you.
Or let me rephrase: from me.
So why would I want to plan anything when it would be taken away from me? When my future was already written? My dad died at 38 from a stroke and I sat by on the sofa waiting for him to come. Instead they brought a box of Dunkin’ Donuts.
I still grapple with this. At times, I struggle with the feeling that my happiness is about to come to a crashing end.
Even though I am a successful yoga teacher who leads all these retreats all over the world, there is still a part of me that is scared to death I am doomed—that my future is already written.
And you can bet your best downward facing dog that I fight tooth and nail to keep this demon at bay.
So here I am about to turn 37.
Pema Chodron’s quote falls into my lap and I decide to take the bull by the horns. I am writing my future. I am writing it this very moment.
In fact I will write it a letter. I suggest you do the same.
It can go something like this:
Here I am, writing you. Moment by moment. Let me tell you how excited I am that I have finally decided to love you. I know I have been on and off again with you. Mostly off. And frankly, I have been a bit cruel and ignored you often. But here I am. You are open and I am accepting!
I wanted to let you know that I will meet you there.
I will meet you with open arms. And I would like you to be prepared for I am about to take the world by storm.
Love, (insert your name here.)
I am about to turn 37 and in some ways feel profoundly sad. It has been almost 30 years now since my dad passed. He truly was my soul mate. And I am starting to forget. My memories have become memories of memories.
I also feel sad that my dad’s last full year of life was his 37th.
So, in honor of all that, I plan on living it up.
I mean, it’s wide open, right? The future?
I am traveling the world. I am laughing as much as I can. I am drinking wine. I am taking pictures. I am telling people I love that I love them. A lot. I am eating cheese after years of starving myself. I am taking risks. I am releasing all feelings of guilt. I am connecting more to my family.
I am doing all the things I know he would have done. Or at least wanted me to do.
We write the future moment to moment.
So I ask you: What did you decide about yourself before you realized that the future isn’t a narrow doorway leading back to the same old room, but rather a wide open field leading to the greatest version of yourself you could possibly imagine?
I urge you: Write down on a piece of paper your old version of your future that is without possibility and hope, and, as we do in my workshops, tear it up.
Put it in a pile. And label it: A Pile of ______.
I will let you fill in that blank.
It’s wide open.
Go for it. The future is yours.
Photo by Josep Ma Rosell