Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Anticipation

I always think of Carly Simon when I think of anticipation - and it wasn't till just yesterday that I found out that song was about waiting for her first date with Cat Stevens. The song has always spoken right to the heart of me, despite the fact that the lyrics are a bit cliched and that it makes many people of my generation think of Heinz ketchup. I wrote a composition in high school about how anticipating Stevie Nicks' The Other Side of the Mirror was making me late - in that case, it made me late for school the day I bought it. I thought it was clever at the time. Looking back, it was kind of lame. I wish I could find it. If I could, I would probably post it, lameness and all.

I'm one of those people that is incredibly anticipatory, both for good things and for bad. Reflecting on anticipation is kind of a requirement for me, as I'm approximately 34 minutes from the end of my 5 day fall vacation (or mini-break as Bridget Jones might say) - invariably, I'm going to look back a little bit on it. In the weeks leading up to it, I was anticipating so many things - lunch with Matt & Bess, the podcast, the potential to get all sorts of stuff done around the house, and a nice anniversary weekend. Although none of those things listed disappointed in any way, the trouble is that in many instances, the actual execution of all the things I anticipate can never hope to live up to how much I have built them up in my head. When things fail to live up to what I have built them up to be, I have not only lost the present I spent anticipating them, but also the present that I'm currently in.

The converse is also true, only in that case, anticipation becomes anxiety which can be crippling at times but something that I'm learning to handle. There is no simpler thing for me to do than to start a loop in my head that feeds on itself, dragging me away from the here and now and into a future that likely won't ever be. I don't pretend for a minute that I'm unique in this situation, however, it's my damn life and of course, the experience I have with it will be unique to me. Additionally, I know of many people whose anxiety keeps them from even the fundamental activities of life, and certainly I am nowhere near that. But to say that it does not affect me at all is not only not being honest with the people around me, but it's a big fat lie to myself.

As I mentioned, the problem with anticipation is that while I am anticipating things, for better or for worse, I have a pronounced tendency to lose the only thing that I really have - the present. As Carly sings, "we can never know about the days to come/but we think about them anyway." I compound my trouble with ruminating over past events, which are things I REALLY don't have any control over, whereas with future events you can hope to exert at least a little influence on them. Getting whipped up into the emotional frenzy of anxiety is ultimately not very helpful because rarely does anything concrete and rational come out of it. When you are speaking from a purely emotional standpoint, logic pretty much goes out the window. It takes an amazing person to speak from both perspectives at the same time. I find that I pretty much have to jettison emotion if I want to be rational at all - the jettisoning of which, as many people know, does not come easy for me.

In the end, another line in Carly's song really cuts through the crap with all this anticipation stuff. "Stay right here, 'cause these are the good old days." In high school, I listened to those lines with a bit of sadness, kind of already chalking up the "good old days" to being 16 and angry, unnecessarily melancholy and really not all that good. In college, I heard that thought echoed in 10,000 Maniacs' "These Are Days" and felt similarly bad. But if adulthood has taught me anything, even in the face of my chronic anticipation, it's that THESE are the good old days. The present. It's what you have. It may be all I have because I might get creamed by a truck on my way to work.

It's all we've got. So I'm staying right here.

2 comments:

Bess said...

So to sum it up, my lunch conversation was subpar? It's OK, you can tell me. ;-)

Glad lunch with Matt and me was something you looked forward to - it was fun, and the food was deeelish! I'm honored you worked it into your fall vacation plans.

Dan said...

Oh, quite the opposite! I'll go back and edit the post to make it a bit clearer.

Lunch with you guys is ALWAYS a good time.