Content warning: suicide
The loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.
– Oxford Dictionaries
Being trans put me into a state of suspended time for years. I did many things that pushed me out of the now because dwelling in the now brought too much emotional pain. The now reminded me of the cruel burden of my unrequited desires to be myself. I observed people and things change around me at a remove because I felt I couldn’t close the gap between the future I wanted and the now.
I spent the now on futures I wasn’t sure would ever come. The activities I pursued to escape the now and flee to the future might sound familiar to you.
In my teens and early twenties, I had an unconscious death wish.
I clocked more miles over 100mph/160kph in cars with questionable maintenance records than I’m willing to admit. I drank and blacked out many times, and poisoned myself once. I took stupid physical risks, often after drinking. I ran to exhaust myself and bring on physical pain to blot out the emotional pain I felt. I threw myself into work and relationships to avoid having to commit to myself.
From my mid-twenties to mid-thirties, work and marriage and the rewards they could bring in the future pulled me forward. Alcohol was ever-present as a way to numb myself from the grind of my reality as I became hyper-aware I was trans. The life I had constructed made getting to myself that much harder due to the massive responsibilities I piled on myself. As I flirted with being myself, I also sought comfort in food, and the combination of being overweight, an alcoholic, and over-stressed gave me panic attacks. I thought I might die, and that didn’t seem so bad some days.
From my mid-thirties to my mid-forties, I shed pounds and a marriage that was unhealthy. I ran marathons and uncovered a male body that brought me satisfaction in its ability to endure the miles but no comfort within when I was at rest. I married again and had kids, a quintessential future-focused activity.
Then the past I never wanted caught up and bulldozed me. It built a berm around me and put the future out of view. The now could not be ignored and demanded a choice: let the past bury me, struggle up for something undefined in the future to distract myself with again, or deal with the situation in the now.
The opportunity cost of time never felt so acute.
But cost of what? In what unit is my time measured? How do I make a life-altering decision like that?
I came to realize I viewed life as a continuum from existing to living and I had spent most of my life existing. Existing was compartmentalizing my true feelings away, avoiding emotional connections that could cause de-compartmentalization, and distracting myself from the pain of the now. Living was when I was happy and engaged in the moment, like when I was running or having unguarded moments of emotional closeness.
From there, I categorized the passage of time in my life as either existing (distraction) or living (happiness). Happiness came from being in the moment, the now.
My opportunity cost of time was happiness or distraction.
Living in the past? A distraction from the now. Living for the future? A distraction from the now. If happiness only happened by living in the moment and I wanted to be happy, it was time to live in the now.
Getting from that now to now’s now had excruciating moments; there’s no way to sugar-coat it. Transition can be hard. Most of those moments came from letting go of things binding me to the past or chaining me to futures I didn’t want. Things like identifying myself with my work or being a husband.
Living in the now is hard. It requires never-ending practice and focus. But the rewards and pursuit of happiness are worth it.
Live in the now. Pursue happiness.
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