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Try Not to *Feel* Too Far Ahead

·480 words·3 mins
Mental Health Survival

“Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”

-Thomas Carlyle


I’m doing better with the latter these days — even though it’s not always easy, especially during times of crisis.

I am a planner. Once upon a time, I was also someone who was totally consumed with anxiety.

Even though things have been truly rocky the past year (really the past few years for me, since I moved cross-country the year prior to the start of the pandemic, which involved a lot of upheaval), I haven’t spent the entire time consumed with worry.

No, a lot of times, I simply came up with a plan. A plan for whatever janky unprecedented thing that the current moment required. Did I sometimes resent having to figure difficult stuff out? Sure. Did I wish things were different when things fell apart? Honestly, it crossed my mind.

But I moved swiftly into planning. What needed to come next to either fix what had gone wrong or to prevent it from happening again. I embraced each successive “new normal” as each version became progressively weirder.

I learned a long time ago that a lot of times that’s all you can do. It doesn’t matter how overwhelmed or heartbroken you are. Sometimes there’s no one coming to save you. You can’t count on other people to care that you’re suffering.

Maybe that’s sad. Maybe it’s cynical. But it’s the lesson I learned — as one of multiple middle children in a large family in the Maine woods. Maine was pretty, especially during the summer. But I grew up feeling like I lived at the periphery of everything — on the margin of the rest of the world. A place that most people from away didn’t think of at all, unless they wanted to get away from civilization for a bit. Go somewhere quiet.

Anyway, if I wanted to get noticed, the only path to do so was by being useful. Skilled. Productive.

Complaining was the opposite of that. Worrying with no plan.

And so I learned to think ahead. I became a planner.

For a long while, I was still a worrier. I not only thought far ahead, I also felt far ahead. Predictably, this interfered with my ability to plan well. Being a worrier drove me to try to plan, but the sad truth is that it’s difficult to problem-solve if you’re too keyed up.

One of the hardest balances I ever had to find was learning how to think ahead without feeling too far ahead.

Honestly, I’m not sure exactly how I do it. To tell the truth, there are still days occasionally when I don’t. And it’s on those days when I’ll catch myself slipping into those old unhelpful habits and say, “Try not to feel too far ahead.”


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