Stop waiting, start living
August 26, 2019 11:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm waiting for certain things in my life to happen. Once they do, my life should change/improve considerably. I can't do anything to speed these things up though; they are either out of my control or mostly just a function of time. So how do I stop feeling like my life is "on hold" until these events take place?

The main example is this:

My partner and I really want to move in together, but due to certain life circumstances, it can't happen for about another 3 years. It's something I look forward to a lot. It also makes me sad that it's still so far away.

There are a couple other items like this that I feel are "hanging over my head", in a sense. When they eventually happen, they will be positive events, but the time between now and then feels like a limbo state. I have a hard time feeling like my life is complete because I'm yearning for that future state. But I want to be happier NOW, not just later.

Any tips on how to deal with these feelings? Would meditation help? Any books, blogs, podcasts you can recommend? (I'm non-religious and not particularly spiritual so please nothing along those lines.)
posted by yawper to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Are there any shorter-term goals or projects you can work on? It's nice if they're related to the long-term goal, but they don't have to be - just something to focus on that will pay off in the short term. Might even be better if they're *not* related (ie if you're waiting to move in with your partner, maybe in the meantime you could learn standup and do a set at your local open mike night)(or if that's too terrifying, how about copying a Bob Ross painting, or taking a cooking class?)
posted by Mogur at 12:05 PM on August 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm adding this to my activity because I'm in a similar boat. However, I have sort of a suggestion; you have 3 years before you can move in together. Is there something that you could learn how to do, some skill or hobby, that could enhance your life and that would also take 3 years to learn, or some project that would take you 3 years to do? That's something akin to an approach I'm taking.

So, for example, maybe you could spend the next 3 years learning how to knit and then knitting a cozy afghan for the two of you to snuggle under when you're sitting on the sofa together in your new home. Or, learn pottery and then make a series of pots for houseplants. Or, pick some kind of cuisine and then perfect it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:05 PM on August 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

I have a hard time feeling like my life is complete because I'm yearning for that future state. But I want to be happier NOW, not just later.

To some extent, you can use these periods of temporary waiting as a chance to take certain kinds of risks or do certain kinds of activities that you don't necessarily see as part of your long term plan.

Feel like you're too old / tired to take a pole dancing class? You can do that now because it's no commitment -- you'd have to give it up in 3 years when you move anyway. (And if you find you love it, you can find a way to make it part of your life later anyway.)

Living in housing you don't see as your forever home? Now is the time to paint the walls ridiculous colours to see which ones you like. (Just be prepared to paint them back before you move.)

Does your partner think high-risk sports like sky-diving or off piste skiing are irresponsible and they would worry about you? Now's the chance to do it without them having to actively think about it.

Do you like dancing the night away in clubs but your partner is more of a homebody? Get your groove on. If the opposite is true, now is the time to ensure you are a Netflix completist before you get behind.

Want to join a club, volunteer for something, learn a skill, etc, etc -- but feel like they aren't worthwhile because they aren't part of your forever life? Now is the chance to try them all, no commitments.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:27 PM on August 26, 2019 [5 favorites]

Pretend they're not happening, and do things that WILL make you happier now. Because nothing is ever set in stone, anything happening in the future is always a "maybe." Reminding myself of that helps me avoid putting my life on hold in anticipation.
posted by metasarah at 12:47 PM on August 26, 2019 [18 favorites]

Changes are almost always a mixed blessing - you move in with your partner and from then on there is always somebody else's dirty laundry on the floor and every time you start screaming obscenities at the talking heads on the television he bursts into tears. You move to New Mexico and you never ever have to shovel the snow off the car before you can leave for work but that mug of hot cocoa that you always make to defrost your poor red numb hands just isn't such a blessing now that you are slapping around the yard in flip-flops and Bermuda shorts. You wait for three... damn it seven years before your kid is finally out of diapers and they have become too big to play bouncy horsie on your knee, or play Viking raider and fling them over your shoulder while they shriek with delight. When there are changes you lose things. Yes, the changes are good ones and they are so worth looking forward to them - but the now has some good things in it that you will lose.

Worse yet people look forward to things - hitting puberty, getting a job, owning a house, being taller than their dad... and when they get them sometimes the brief surge of total joy that the long awaited pleasures bring only lasts for moments. Planning for future happiness is a mug's game. You have to set your life up so that there is a payoff for your hard work and so that there are things to look forward to, but you mustn't wait to be happy. There's no guarantee that anything that promises future happiness will follow through.

Living in the future is often a manifestation of anxiety - once I am finally, finally finished school I will never ever have another exam and never be upset and worried and scared and tense and out of my mind again... until it's time to look for work, or performance review, or there are shortfalls between income and financial needs... and then, for some they forget how scared and tense they were at exams and think, oh God, if only I could go back to that golden age when I was in school, no responsibilities...

So look at what you have now, what things now are important and make you happy and focus on them, if you can. Theoretically moving in with your partner will mean a feeling of belonging and the happiness that being with them produces - but you have some feeling of belonging now and some happiness when you have contact with them. Rather than be discontented when you and partner talk because you can't actually go home with them, can you figure out how to feel the sense of belonging and feel happy at the sound of their voice? Can you make those times when you talk to them special now? Right now, dwelling in the moment is all the happiness you are guaranteed.

Some of the things that are on hold are things that you might be able to do right now. In the future who are you going to be? Can you be that person right now? I don't know what you are waiting for, but let's say you are waiting until the debt is paid off. You are slogging along waiting until the day you don't have to worry about money... can you stop worrying about money anyway, even with the debt hanging over your head? I don't mean that you should go ahead and spend money, but find ways to fulfill the needs that will be filled when there is money. Turn off the mental track of worry. Savour the things that you can afford. Find non-money dependent sources of pleasure.

There are mental tricks to living in the now - and one part of that is being realistic about what is now, and not thinking the future will be that much different from the present. It might be very different, but if you can't be happy in Chicago, your probably can't be happy in Albuquerque. If you can't live on an income of $55,000 without stressing about finances, you may not be able to live on an income of $155,000 without stressing about finances. If you can't be happy working, then maybe you can't be happy going to school either. Now is all you have. The trick is not only to work on making your lifetime goals, but work on your short term goals. You will be happiest if you think in terms of making this a good year, and making this a good month, and making this a good week, and making this a good hour.
posted by Jane the Brown at 12:54 PM on August 26, 2019 [31 favorites]

Like EmpressCallipygos, my mind went to the idea that you could double down on the sense of preparation. The main idea that comes to mind is saving money. Get a second job and save like crazy, maybe. If you can't enjoy the moment anyway, then go ahead and view this time as a time of preparation. Just don't do anything counterproductive if life changes (like don't prepare by selling all your worldly goods that you'll miss if the relationship ended unexpectedly).
posted by salvia at 12:56 PM on August 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I definitely like the idea of focusing on goals you can accomplish now, like beginning to exercise if you don't already, or learning to cook more, etc. What other changes do you wish could happen in your life? Focus on what you can control.
posted by pinochiette at 2:54 PM on August 26, 2019

There's a lot of preparation for a move like that. Do it. You'll be ready to really live when you do get there.
posted by amtho at 3:00 PM on August 26, 2019

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