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Making Friends With the Future

harry potter quote

“The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult thing indeed.” – Professor Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

When I decided to get out of my own way and text that cute girl I’d met at the birthday party, there was no way for me to know that less than two years later we’d be talking about marriage and…gulp…kids.

This was not part of the post-divorce plan.

Looking back, I can connect the dots that led me to being at the party where I met her; I can also see the events that had unfolded to lead me to a place where I had the confidence to say “Hey, we should hang out.” Looking back, I can see the chain of events, right from the beginning, that led me to this point in my life.

When I turn around and look ahead, though, I don’t have that advantage. I can’t see where the next step will take me. No one can. Every decision I make, every action I take, causes an infinite number of possible universes to collapse into the one I inhabit. I won’t get to fully understand the effects of what I cause until much, much later.

Like most people, I’ve gone through a multitude of desires regarding the future. At first, I wished that I could know the future in advance, to have the gift of foresight and prophecy. If I could just know when something bad was coming my way, I could change course and avoid it or prepare for it; conversely, if I knew something good was in store I could endure whatever present suffering might be happening. I still fall victim to this kind of wishful thinking on occasion.

Next came the desire to mold and shape the future, to bend it to my will, to be in complete control, the master of my destiny. My logic, if you can call it that, was that careful consideration of next steps and possible outcomes would allow me to make the best possible choice in any given situation. As a result, I spent a lot of time thinking and very little time doing. I still fall victim to this kind of wishful thinking on occasion.

Then came a desire for acceptance of the future, no matter how it showed up. I would let whatever was coming just come and I would deal with it as it arrived in the best way that I could at the time. Not trying to predict or control but instead letting go of the need to predict and control, I stumbled blindly forward; I made colossal mistakes and great discoveries and evolutionary leaps in consciousness, sometimes all within the span of five minutes. It was painful and fun and exciting and terrifying. I still fall victim to this kind of wishful thinking on occasion.

Most recently, I’ve stopped believing in the future altogether. There is no future, I say, there is only now. Sounds super-enlightened and existential, right? I like to think so. Considering my track record, though, this one is probably bullshit, too. While I wait to find out, I’ll continue to work on letting go of my need to predict, control, or accept the future and do my best to enjoy the gift of the present moment.

I hope Dumbledore would be proud.

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