Participate vs. Anticipate

Some people embrace spontaneity, while others are rooted in making plans. Some people let problems slide over them like water on a duck’s back, while others struggle to stay afloat from the weight of their problems. Live in the moment. Plan for the future.

I’ve always known that I’m more comfortable making plans, rather than doing something on the spur of a moment. With spontaneity comes risk and I’m not a big risk taker. Instead, I’m a big worrier. Some people might think I have a gift in that I am very good at looking forward and seeing all the obstacles and hindrances and potential pitfalls on the way to something, and I can problem solve ways to avoid all those things. In other words, I anticipate something very well.

Anticipate: to foresee and deal with in advance.

This is a highly honed skill for me. I am a master at taking large projects and breaking them down into manageable steps. I am gifted at contemplating a future event, thinking of all the things that can go wrong and having a plan B for each. I’ve often joked about how for some things I have a plan C, D, and E too. When faced with an upcoming touchy conversation, I can cogitate the conversation six different ways and plan what I want to say in response to what the other person says. In a business setting, I can forecast plans five years out, which is one of the reasons why I’m so good at my current job of project manager. Some days I get so immersed in future planning that I have to remind myself of the month and year that is truly today.

Participate: to take part.

Living in the moment is not my forte. I’m actively present in the room, taking part in the conversation or the activity, and I may even be enjoying myself. But my mind is racing ahead, predicting where the conversation is going to go, watching for the drink that’s getting placed too close to the edge and the hand or elbow that’s going to knock it off. It’s difficult for me to relax and be “grounded” in the moment because I’m too busy anticipating what’s going to come next.

People would laugh out loud if they knew that I really do physically stop and smell flowers. It’s a conscious effort on my part to take part in the moment. It’s also a tool I use as a writer, to record a moment in my memory, involving as many senses as I can so that I can rewrite the moment later in a story. Indeed, it’s a rare occurrence when I can embrace the moment and not think of the future. And when I realize I am in the present, I consciously pause and take it all in.

Lately I’ve been working on my participation skills. For a natural born worrier, it’s much more difficult than it seems and I feel completely out of my comfort zone. I am certain mayhem is going to break out at any moment and I won’t be prepared. It’s downright scary. And it’s exhausting. But necessary, for life is too short to spend every moment living in the future.

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