Anticipation is not a bad thing, but when we leave the present moment and begin living in anticipation we encounter some problems. For instance, you haven’t been feeling well and the doctor schedules some tests to determine what is wrong. If you are like me, you immediately start to anticipate all the pain and discomfort you will experience going through the tests. Finding it wasn’t as bad or painful as you anticipated, you then spend the next week, while waiting for the results, thinking about the worst. What if it is cancer? Now you start to live in your mind just how you will feel when the doctor gives you the diagnosis. You start to rehearse how you will tell your loved ones. And then the imagination kicks in with thoughts of all the horrible things the chemo will do to your body. After that, despite your best efforts to keep fear at bay, the question arises: “How long do I have to live?”
In all those instances, anticipation forced you out of the present moment and into a place of illusion, of what is not yet and what may never be. We waste precious time experiencing mentally – illusionally – what has not happened yet and may not happen and miss the gifts each moment holds. How foolish it sounds and yet we all do it. As Melody Beattie writes in her book Journey to the Heart, we allow the fear of “what if” to ruin the joy of “what is.”
Our mind projects the worst and we live in fear and dread until time proves otherwise. And, even if our fears come to be, we live them twice – once as an illusion and then as reality. I think most of us find that reality usually turns out to be much easier to live with than the anticipation and illusions of our mind.
May we remind ourselves instead that God is always here in the present moment to help us accept whatever the moment holds. “For I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand; It is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13)
– Sallie Bachar