Eager anticipation is one of the best feelings in the world. And my god, there are so many things in life we relish in anticipating.
The glass of wine, freshly poured. Warm pyjamas, straight from the dryer. The start of a New Year….a new decade…..a new beginning.
But what’s fascinating about anticipation, is that, when it comes down to it……anticipation is simply storytelling. Foreshadowing. Forecasting. And our own projections into the future.
Anticipation is like a glass of lemonade on a hot summer’s day. It’s evil twin? The flip side of the coin? That’d be anxiety. Which is much more like a snowball to the face in the dead of winter.
Anxiety is storytelling just the same. But with a negative plot twist. Fear runs the show. And there is a kind of…..mistrust…..of the future, created in our own minds.
Future-traipsing can be glorious and thrilling and full of excitement…..or it can be a dangerous game that sets us up for shattered expectations…..or worse yet, a state of mind that paralyzes us with inaction.
But when do we choose to linger in anticipation….and when do we choose to linger in anxiety? When do we choose heads, instead of tails….or tails instead of heads?
The human tendency to hop aboard the forethought train has served our ancestors well. Back in our caveman days, we needed to strategize our own safety, prevent against surprise sabre-tooth tiger attacks, and forage our food for the upcoming winter.
Fast forward to the era of smart phones, convenience stores, and Cheez Wiz…..and things look a little less…..life or death. Yet our brains haven’t quite caught up. And we’re still very much in self-preservation mode.
I would hedge my bets that even in this day and age, most of us choose anxiety more often than we choose eager anticipation. Some ancient instinct that refuses to unclench its grip from our minds.
And yet, “the moment before” things happen doesn't have to be a scary place. In fact, is it not equally plausible that things will go well, as it is that they go horribly wrong?
Why then, in this time and place, do we continually choose “worst case scenario” thinking? Why do our brains neeeeeeed to come up with a story at all?
Just the other day, I was at the ballet with my daughter, Clara. It was her very first time at The Nutcracker, and she was dressed to the nines in her pink tutu….high on candy canes and chocolate kisses from her Christmas stocking. On our way up to the balcony, we were handed our program, and as we flipped through it, I saw the long-winded synopsis of the ballet we were about to see.
Huh. I thought to myself. Do I read it to her, so she can follow along with the story as it unfolds…..or do I just let her experience the ballet without any preconceptions? I chose not to read it to her. And instead, I just let it all come as a surprise.
She loved every minute of it. And when it was over, as we shuffled to our car amidst the sea of little girls with big dreams to become ballerinas one day….I started to think about the ways that I try to write a synopsis of my life, before it happens…..just so I can feel a little less….caught off guard.
I started to think about the stories I tell myself, and how often they involve an evil villain, or a fall-from-grace. And I started to wonder about the idea of letting my life come more as a surprise.
All too often, I look at the present moment with a foreboding sense of fear, rather than joy. Which is, essentially, robbing me of the bliss of anticipation. What if I chose to get excited about the unknown? Like a gift I’m just about to unwrap.
A beautiful, deep, soulful romantic relationship could be just around the corner.
A book deal could be ready to knock on my front door.
A new client could be one conversation away from saying “hell yes!”
A sexy blue-eyed masterpiece of a man, sitting across from me at Starbucks, could interrupt this very sentence I’m writing, and say……”excuse me…..I couldn’t help but notice how drop dead gorgeous you are. It would kill me if I couldn’t take you out to dinner tonight.”
And Jesus. Why couldn’t it happen? In which case…..I should be PUMPED about what’s about to take place.
And so on those days when I start to sink into fear, is it not a wise choice to take a peak at the stories I’m telling myself…..and shatter the lies that cause my jaw to tighten, and my shoulders to reach for my ears?
I’m not ready. I’ve never done this before. It’s too risky.
All lies I’ve told myself before. And the kind of lies that cast a scary shadow over the future.
Calm patience. Enjoyment in the wonder. The what if. The possibility. The precipice. It’s a work in progress. And something to aim for.
And so as we round the corner on 2019, I think about all of the goals and dreams I have for the future. And I try to harness this sense of excitement that always seems to kick in at the turn of a year. Remembering that just as the years turn, so too do the days. And rather than brace for danger, I seek to choose eager anticipation. Letting life surprise me at every turn.