I’ve noticed something. It applies to jobs, relationships, friendships, haircuts even.

We already know the past is deceiving, that we shouldn’t rely entirely on memory. Childhood friends; prom; your first kiss; the taste of betrayal when you got a full house the time your brother taught you how to play poker, but he hadn’t said he could fold if you’d yell from excitement, which of course you did because you didn’t know he could fold. I ain’t forget Sid.

Memories appear as either more or less important, more bitter or way sweeter, than they actually were. By definition, they’re just… memories. Fleeting.

You’ve probably had to learn the hard way not to rely much on memories or nostalgia for decision making. Victims miss their abusers for some time too, way after they’ve left physically. A victim makes approximately 7 attempts to leave before they do for the last time. Emotions aren’t to be trusted when recounting the past and deciding what you should do.

That was a long intro. Back to the thing I’ve noticed.

We need to stop living in the present.

Let’s preface by saying I can’t offer many, if any, real, tried and tested solutions. Just food for thought.

We were told to live in the moment, to enjoy it. We heard: you must enjoy the present. You must have a good time.

Anything is manageable if it isn’t forever.

Bring to mind the last time you felt frustrated by a person or situation. Would you continue being part of that situation if you knew it wouldn’t change, ever? I knew I wouldn’t for a lot of situations that come to mind now. Would you forgive some of the things you have, if you knew they’d go on forever? I wouldn’t.

Trying to make sense of shitty situations is H-A-R-D. Especially if you’re a good person and/or empathetic, it’s hard to understand why people do the things they do. That’s why we focus on the positive, and accept living on emotional breadcrumbs. It could be worse, right? Nobody’s perfect, right?

“Someone in the movement said, ‘It’s not about learned helplessness, it’s about learned hopefulness,’ ” she says. “And I think there’s a lot of truth to that. There’s a kind of resilience that allows you to think, I can manage this. He keeps saying he’ll change, and he is changing, he’s gotten a little better. So the hope keeps you in it.”

Larissa MacFarquhar, The Radical Transformations of a Battered Women’s Shelter on The New Yorker

We stay in shitty relationships, toxic friendships, jobs that aren’t right for us because of the deceitful nature of the present. Because of our optimistic, glass half-full attitude.

When you look at someone through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.” From The New Yorker to Bojack Horseman real quick, from “happily in love” to “how did I miss all of this?!?!?” real quick.

Resolution

From Don Hertzfeldt’s short film, World of Tomorrow. Photo by Austin Kleon.

Closest thing to a solution I have is…time. Time away from your perceived source of stress. Time apart that shows you whether you’re coming from a place of learned hopefulness or not. It helps you take off those rose colored glasses. Lack of common sense doesn’t look good on anyone.

I’m all for living in the present. Hell, I meditate every day to make sure I live in the present as much as possible. No matter what we want to believe, we can’t change what’s real. Shit’s still shit with rose colored glasses on.

We can’t change the past. We can’t control the future. Now is all we have, the envy of the dead. Anything is manageable if it isn’t forever. But what if it is forever? What if you’re only living in the present with the hope that the future will bring something better, something different? What if you want to live a life that isn’t just manageable?

Food for thought.

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