The Future Is Broken

(this was written and posted on Facebook on Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 1:51am)

There has been such an outpouring of love, and care, and concern from everyone that Jonathan and I know - it has been tremendous and has definitely helped me to get through some of these days and hours. The question that is the most difficult to answer, though, is, "How are you doing? How are you holding up?" So I thought maybe I should try to explain how I am doing.

In short, our future is broken. The mind simply cannot cope with this. Everyone has a past, a present, and a future, and the continuity that your mind creates between these is what brings peace and stability. Generally, you know what you will be doing tonight, where you will eat dinner, what television shows you might watch, which persons you will see. You know what you will be doing tomorrow, what time you will get up, where you will go to work, what work you will do. You've probably discussed, as we have, what vacations you might take this year. We might go to Crested Butte to the Wildflower Festival again. We're planning our first trip across the pond, to the UK and maybe France. If you own a home, maybe you've made plans for needed repairs or improvements, or simply discussed what color to paint a particular room. The point is, you have a future, and you are able to imagine it and visualize it.

It's easy enough to handle small breaks in our futures. Your child breaks an arm at school. So instead of spending the day at work, you will be picking him up and taking him to the hospital to get the arm set instead. You have a small fender bender while on the way to get groceries. So instead of making the dinner you were planning tonight, now you have to arrange for car repairs and maybe you'll just grab take-out instead. It stresses the mind to have to instantly adjust to this sort of thing, but it can handle it.

But what if everything was suddenly ripped away?

What if you no longer had any of the future that you'd envisioned for yourself? How can the mind possibly cope? Nothing that you'd expected is now going to happen. There is no longer any context, there is no framework. This is what denial is, the inability to cope with this complete break. There is no longer any continuity between your past and present and your future. The mind keeps crying out, "But what about this thing that we'd planned? Or that thing that is supposed to happen?" And it happens over and over and over again, as you slowly realize that even the tiniest details of what you'd imagined is no longer possible. You find yourself reeling, and struggling to cling to facts. What are the facts of my life? How do they fit in to my new reality? For instance, I own a home. That is one of my facts. But what will happen in my new reality? Can I afford to keep my home? If I can, am I able to do all of the upkeep and maintenance on the home by myself if I have to? And if he doesn't make it, would I even be able to bear to stay in that home where we had so many happy memories together? If I can't, where would I go? The mind just kind of short-circuits, and it becomes impossible to concentrate or even remember what I did just five minutes ago.

What is my future?

And to make things even more difficult, the entire time that your mind is desperately working to comprehend what is no longer possible, you're also being called on to instantly adapt to, identify, and work within this entirely new, unknown future that has been thrust upon you. There are tasks that must be done, but each one brings up new questions: How does this fit in with the remaining facts of my life? Or worse, perhaps the new task makes you realize that there is yet another aspect of your old future that must be discarded and mourned.

So that's how I'm doing. In five days, I've had to come to terms with the fact that my entire future, as I'd envisioned it, is now gone. I have pieces scattered around me. I still have a slender thread of hope that some of those pieces can possibly be reassembled again into something resembling what they once were. I am beginning to be able to imagine and visualize a little bit of this new, different future. I don't want it, I still want my old future back. I want to wake up from this nightmare. But as I am able to visualize and understand my new future, I'll gradually be able to move forward into it.

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