Many people have told me to try to live more ‘in the moment’. I’ve been told that general anxiety tends to prevent you from living in the moment because it makes you focus on the future, on the possibles, on the worries. But there’s an unforeseen consequence of trying to live more in the moment. Maybe it’s just me – maybe no one else ends up with the same issue. But the more I try to be ‘in the moment’, the more I have this problem.
You see, living in the current moment implies the lack of future moments. It implies that you only have now, and that you will never have more. No wonder the corollary statement to ‘Live in the moment’ is frequently, ‘Live each moment as if it’s your last.’ This is seriously problematic for anyone with any anxiety, because it forces you to act as though you only have one chance.
I don’t know about you, but if I only have right now, I am sure as hell going to be desperately clinging to every little thing I want to do with my life. Like a chicken with its head cut off, I’m going to be trying to do everything I deem necessary at once: be with my family, be with my partner, make an impact on the world, finish each responsibility to others, and more. I’m going to feel bad about every little thing that I miss: traveling, every task not yet done, every missed opportunity – just, everything.
Sure, they say that living in the moment is supposed to mean you don’t think about regrets. I have news for you – they do not have to be part of the same package. It is downright easy to spend all your time regretting and fretting and worrying and simultaneously be crashing through every moment like it’s a rusty old door, guarding long lost treasure.
The absolute worst part is that it means I can’t and won’t take any time off. I haven’t taken a day off in two months. 52 days or so. If I take time off, I am betting on a potential future, one that I have no guarantee exists. If I take time off, I am not living each moment as my last, not at all. I am wasting time. I have things to do. Don’t you know today is my last day?
I realize there are a lot of problems with my brain’s interpretation of ‘Live in the moment’. I certainly do not equate it with mindfulness, which I think of as more like a conscious deliberateness of experience. But give my brain an inch, and it will take a mile. This maxim has become a clarion call for self-punishment and stubbornness. It is not a solution to anxiety so much as an anxiety-inducing madness.