My Imaginary Life


I don’t just see the future, I live there. It’s where I spend a good part of my day. My imagination is a personal time machine and my thoughts provide an endless supply of fuel.

Yesterday I envisioned my long, slow descent into the malady du jour (this time it was Parkinson’s). In the past week alone I sent an arch nemesis to jail; helped a famous country singer write a hit song; and landed a filthy rich, litigation happy client.

These aren’t just nighttime dreams after a spicy meal. These are fully conscious, crazily crafted, broad daylight scenarios. This is my fabricated future unfolding in present time, every day. Some future days are good; some bad.

They used to be mostly bad. If my child had a cold I’d race ahead to a bedside vigil in the ICU. If I missed a deadline at work, I’d fast forward through my bar card revocation hearing, make a brief skip through financial ruin and take my perp walk, handcuffs and all.

It was my warped defense mechanism, as though every considered possibility prepared me for the worst and anything that fell short of utter disaster was something to be celebrated. As Mark Twain once said: “I have been through many terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”

It’s not the healthiest way to view the world. I don’t recommend it.

These days my present future is decidedly more hopeful but still unrelenting. It’s an endless series of “what ifs,” without any basis. The only common theme is that they aren’t real, and likely never will be.

When I’m not gratuitously misappropriating the future, I like to peer into my Retrospectroscope. Its another incredible machine. It can conjure up images from my past quicker than a Google search. It even has various filters to examine these memories. The filters can add an extra degree of regret to a failed business opportunity or mirth to a wedding reception. They color my past self as better (or worse) looking, more athletic, more callous, more compassionate, funnier, clumsier, poorer, richer, smarter or denser all depending on my current disposition.

So here I vacillate between two imaginary worlds-reconstructing the past and deconstructing the future.

And my present? If I can work through the opposite poles it’s pretty damned ideal. Truth be told, it always has been. And so is yours, I’d venture to bet. No, I’m not helping Robert Earl Keen write the definitive Texas ballad like I thought I would. Nor am I celebrating my book on the New York Times best seller list. But when I stop to really consider the here and now, I don’t yearn for the assurance of a happy future or daydream about things that will never come to pass. I don’t need to pursue the fleeting phantom known as the future.

And you know the greatest thing about it? The uncertainty. Looking forward to things that will happen which I could never foresee. Knowing that people I have yet to meet will enrich my life in ways I never anticipated. Understanding the paradox that the less I try to control, the more I will have the opportunity to embrace.


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