Are You Inhabiting “Past Tense?” What If You Shifted Your Focus to the Present?

Do you live in past tense? This question is prompted by a quote from one of Lisa Unger’s novels (Black Out): “Most of us don’t live in the present tense.”

Note: Normally, when I’m reading in bed at night, I don’t have a highlighter close by… because I’m reading novels to relax, not to find inspiration or ideas. I am actually trying to get my mind OFF of work and ON to sleepy land. But here I was, reading Unger’s novel, and I was struck by her statement that “Most of us don’t live in the present tense.” I’ve been thinking about this idea since then.

Living in the past is a dull and lonely business; looking back strains the neck muscles, causing you to bump into people not going your way. ~Edna Ferber

Can we agree that it is harder to stay positive when your neck hurts and if you are forever crashing into people?! Let us consider that metaphorically (and not just literally).

Concepts that are associated with the past include:

  • yesterday
  • last year
  • 5 minutes ago
  • ancient
  • then
  • historical
  • non-current
  • medieval
  • olden (oh, my)
  • previous
  • former
  • ex-_________

Yikes! Wouldn’t you rather be today, now, and current?

Why would you be staying in the past tense?

  • Were you younger then? Yes.
  • Were you less wise then? Probably.
  • Were you with someone else then? Maybe.
  • Were you living somewhere else then? Maybe.

I could go on with a jillion questions at this point, but YOU are the one who needs to take a look at why you are spending so much time in the past tense (if you are). What is it that seemed “better” then than now?

If you can go back and recreate some aspect from the past that you wish were still in place now, then do so! For example, let’s say you muse about being in college. You think about the fun you had, the classes you loved, being on campus…whatever brings back good memories. Well, what if you created some aspect of that now? Get it? NOW. You could go back to school, you could go research something in a campus library (usually called knowledge centers now), or you could go sponsor a group on campus. There are a multitude of possibilities, but until you figure out what it is that keeps drawing your attention back to the past, you won’t know what you need to recreate for now.

Here’s another question? What is it about NOW that you don’t seem to like (or otherwise you wouldn’t be looking back to the past, right?) Figure that out and begin to address the current situation, as needed.

As Jan Glidewell admonishes us,

You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.

Don’t let your present run out like that.

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