If you’re depressed, you’re stuck in the past and if you’re anxious, you’re worried about the future. I read that somewhere. I think it’s supposed to help you on the road to self-improvement. Don’t worry, this post isn’t one of those hoaky, feel-good calls to live like you’re dying. I’m too literal for that kind of thing.
This is an acknowledgment that as humans, we’re lucky we can fondly recall our past as well as eagerly plan our future. It’s what separates us from wildlife.
Improv teaches us to be in the moment, and it’s wonderful. Tuning out the constant chatter in our heads and enjoying the present moment is good for the mind, body, and soul. But what do you do when you face a major change in life? The kind of change that simultaneously causes you to mourn the life you’ll be leaving behind and fretting about the unknown new life ahead? Can you be depressed and anxious at once? You betcha.
As a rational and practical human being, you acknowledge that you cannot realistically be completely in the present moment, every moment of every day. Without the sense to prepare for your new life, you would not survive. Even squirrels hide nuts for the winter. So ignoring the impending change is not an option.
And without being able to look back and appreciate the special moments and people your old life gave you, you’d be a robot without a soul. So severing your emotional investment in your recent past is not an option either.
Rather than disengaging from the past or the future, keep them in your peripheral while focusing on the present. Sounds a bit like multitasking, I know.
This is where a solid improv foundation comes in handy. When the sadness and fear attempt to gang up on you, reign yourself back into the present. Push the thoughts of the past and the future to the sidelines and observe where you are at this moment. Your old life isn’t over and your new life hasn’t started. Right here, right now, it’s your real life.
In other words, “Yes, And” the heck out of the situation:
Yes, an amazing and positive time of my life is coming to an end. And I’m the luckiest person in the world for having had this experience, however brief. I should be shouting from the rooftops about my good fortune to have experienced something so beautiful!
Yes, a new and uncertain phase awaits me. And I am open to it because I’m a student of improv. Like every improvised scene, life is unscripted. All I can do is set one foot on the stage. And then the other. I can take a small action or initiate a dialogue. Or I can shut up, observe the environment, and discover an opportunity to become part of the scene I could never have imagined.