How I learned life is what happens when you’re making other plans – Jim Duffy

Are you too caught up in future worries to just enjoy the beauty of a sunrise? (Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire)
Are you too caught up in future worries to just enjoy the beauty of a sunrise? (Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire)
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I’ve spent weeks failing to notice sunrises, smell the coffee or have fun with my dog, writes Jim Duffy,

I’ve completely lost the last three weeks of my life. No, I wasn’t drunk or inebriated through the misuse of strong drink. I hadn’t taken mind-bending drugs either. Mind you, I’m going to my first rave in Ibiza this year, so who knows ... But, all the same, the last three weeks has been a blur. No, I’ve not been ill either or on Tramadol prescription from the doctor.

No, the sad thing is I’ve missed the last three weeks as a result of me. My frailties as a human – one who purports to be a wee bit clever, have some experience of life and know my own self – have still shone through. It crept up on me and overtook my own existence.

It is called – living in the future. And I was so busy making plans that life passed me by over the last 21 days or so. But, I’m back now and can help you not make the same mistake.

There is a terrific saying that sums it all up: “Life is what happens while you are busy making plans.”

Only my plans for the future took over the actual realty of now. It happens to me frequently in life. I have no doubt it happens to you. Something usually triggers it and it is difficult to spot.

I’m not sure what precipitated it this time, but I’m bloody glad I’m back. It is a horrible bubble that envelopes your thinking and thus behaviours. It creates stress and worry that ordinarily there is no point in thinking about. Yet, I succumbed.

I began to worry about my health and dying. Not in a morbid way at all. I have been keeping pretty fit. But, as I saw a couple of folks around me becoming ill and sustaining sporting injuries, I selfishly thought – what if that was me? What if I get one of the big nasty illnesses? I know it is in the post at some point, but the thought of prostrate cancer, bowel cancer, motor neurone disease, stroke and a heart attack began to penetrate my thoughts.

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This then resulted in me stressing about my life assurance, my will, bank accounts and passwords. I had to make sure all would be well.

So, I began to create a whole bunch of admin that was unnecessary as I had already taken care of much of this.

I was frozen with the fear that a quick stroke would bring my world to an end, that I wouldn’t be able to wipe my own bottom, and then I had to Google the clinic – Dignitas – to see how easy it would be to get in the door. But, it I didn’t end there.

My psyche was overtaken with “what if’s?” What if I don’t have enough cash to see me through to my old age? What if Brexit bursts Europe and we have to go through another massive recession? What if, what if, what if – and so it went on.

I was set on a course where I was putting in fixes for events that I had no control over and nine out of ten psychologists would say were imaginary. This manifested itself in hours of over-thinking things.

While I was completing one task, my head was already in the car going to the next thing. While I was eating my breakfast, my head was at my aerobics class. While I was at my aerobics class, I was worrying about Wall Street and Donald Trump’s talks with the Chinese on trade. Yep, pretty barmy stuff, with my life flying in a holding pattern.

Luckily now I have landed safely. But, the sad part is I’ve lost out on so much good stuff.

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Living in a ‘future state’ – whether through simply being highly organised, living with some form of OCD or even just being afraid of our own humanity or mortality – is most debilitating. Yes, I guess that planning for the future is a good thing and helps keep our affairs in order. But, when it becomes an obsession that is ruled by some form of inexplicable fear, then it is unhealthy.

As a human being, you lose touch with others around you. It is like having an out-of-body experience. But instead of it lasting a few minutes, it lasts weeks.

The things I missed out on are simple things. And it is the simple things in life that make life so special. I missed the sunrises and sunsets where I live.

They are so inspiring and uplifting, but I was too busy worrying about the day I would not get to see them again. I missed the fabulous greeting my dog gives me every morning, so thrilled to see me and reminding me that she is my best friend. I certainly walked her and fed her, but I can’t remember it.

I missed the sites and smells that I get when I have coffee in a coffee shop. I forgot to people-watch and instead was a million miles away.

And so the list of missed encounters with my real life goes on.

I’m not alone in suffering from this form of situational paralysis, I made that up, but it feels like the right term.

So many of us are too busy living in the future, worrying about the future, we completely miss out on what is happening in real time around us. Worrying or “catastrophising” about the future is not a fun state to be in.

I’m so thankful I’m back and grounded in what is happening right under my nose. My question to you is – are you living too much in the future and busy making plans while life goes on around you and will you one day regret it?