Shortly after I got married, I ended up babysitting my nephew who was then two and a half or so. It went okay, until I decided to show him a Dumbo cartoon.
He really, really, really liked the elephant flying. And when the elephant landed, he started screaming and crying “Elephant fly. Elephant fly.”
He was pretty disappointed when I couldn’t make the elephant fly.
What I was talking about: when your imagined future is suddenly yanked away, by changes in your industry, or illness, or a move is much like what my little nephew experienced. Oh, except we know it won’t work.
So we scream “Elephant fly! Elephant fly!” but we know it won’t happen.
One of you asked “how you get around it.”
I’m still working through it.
Part of the problem is that I don’t have the type of mind that works with visualizations or affirmations. As mentioned in another post, I am naturally a person of very little faith. So if I sit here trying to imagine a future for myself, I just giggle. Or make up reasons for it never happening and end up pretty depressed.
I mean, if I’m going to sit around imagining a future, I prefer the one in which I win the lottery and clear 100 million dollars, and buy dream houses in three cities, and… And that is fun because I know it’s never going to happen, not because it gives me some sort of map for my future. (I mean, we remember to buy a ticket maybe twice a year. With luck. And mostly just to buy that chance to dream for a couple days.)
I found out recently I’m already doing whatever the hot new “being really present” thing is in psychology. I have through half a century of living with myself learned to redirect bad thoughts, stop panic attacks, etc. That’s not the problem.
The problem is that I swear we’re like mice with an imprint of a labyrinth at some sub-thoughts level. Even when we know the cheese is no longer there, we keep aiming the way we were going. And the older you get, the harder it is to redirect. Because it’s not conscious. It’s how you stand, it’s what you eat, it’s how you occupy your time.
Sure, maybe transcendental meditation would work. Or hanging by my feet from a helicopter, or something. Look, I already have problems doing the praying I’m SUPPOSED to do.
But clearly standing in front of the TV screaming “Elephant fly!” ain’t gonna work.
And btw, for me at least, the Dumbo trick of holding a feather and believing you can is also not going to work.
I am of that unfortunate cast of mind that if I were the little engine that could … I wouldn’t be. I would be the little engine who asked really unfortunate questions. In the elephant flying case? “Why is he flying? How can he fly? Have you seen his wing to body ratio? What planet is this?” And thus, my own situation.
So believing I really can is not in the cards either.
So what is left?
I don’t know. Right now I’m locked in single combat with “establish a damn schedule already!” slightly hampered by the fact that my family has decided this is crazy year with comings and goings and needing me at weird places and weird times.
But to me, I think the path to another future goes through day to day. First change habits. Then establish routine. Work on getting healthy to avoid constant interruptions in work. Etc.
Let the macro stuff fall where it will. Worry about putting a foot in front of the other every day. Climbing that cliff an inch at a time. Even when your nails bleed.
Incremental. Small. Just routine.
…. And maybe at the end of it I’ll find if the elephant really flies.
And maybe it will, soaring improbably into the blue on stubby wings.
It could happen. Which is better than things that couldn’t.
And I sure as heck am going to give it a try.