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The Fear of Missing Something

I am often plagued by what I call the fear of missing something (FOMS). It’s the feeling that whatever I am doing at the moment, there is something better I could be doing. It’s the feeling that somewhere out there is an opportunity that I’m missing out on.

This feeling can be especially acute when the weather is good, especially in the spring, when warm, sunny days are a welcome change from the cold winter weather. We in Canada have just had a long weekend with three days of gorgeous weather. On Saturday, I felt a strong feeling that I had to make good use of the beautiful day, or it would be a waste and I would regret it. I had nothing I had to do. My back has been bothering me, so canoeing and hiking were out. I tried to check the local daily newspaper’s website for events going on in town, but the website wasn’t working and I couldn’t find anything. I ended up just doing errands, and spending part of the day reading on my apartment balcony. I tried to be mindful, though, of what I was feeling about the day.

I hate missing opportunities. One of the things that always comes to mind when I list things I am thankful for is all of the opportunities I have living in Canada in the twenty-first century. I live in a vibrant community where there is always lots going on: concerts, lectures, cultural events, festivals, etc. I’m lucky to live here, but perhaps I let today’s fast pace of life trick me into thinking that I have to see and do everything.

FOMS is an uneasy feeling. Perhaps it’s the opposite of living in the moment, of being happy here and now. It’s the feeling that what I’m doing is not good enough, that I would be happier doing something else. Maybe there is an element of lack of trust in my ability to make decisions to spend my time wisely. Several years ago when I went back to school full time, I often felt that no matter which course I was working on, some other course needed my attention more urgently. Some days it almost paralyzed me.

Perhaps it’s also a kind of lack of acceptance of the reality of my life and a wish that things were different. This weekend I thought a lot about K, my ex-girlfriend, and wished I could be doing something with her. When we were together, I was busy just tagging along on everything she and her kids did—watching kids’ soccer games, driving kids to activities, helping out around the house. There was never a dull moment, and at times it drove me crazy. Compared to that, the life of a single man living alone can seem pretty empty. Perhaps that explains my reluctance to let go of the past. Holding onto the past means I don’t have to notice that the present is not what I want it to be or move on to an uncertain future.

I’ve written before, I think, about the importance of not focusing on what is not happening or what I wish were happening, but on what is happening. Instead of dwelling on thoughts of the weekend I wish I could have, I will be happier if I stay present in the weekend I am having. That is how I can see whether the life I am living is as satisfying as it could be. If it isn’t, staying present can help me discern what I need to do differently to be happier. Perhaps more importantly, it is also the way for me to recognize and appreciate the aspects of my life that are good and satisfying. That is the only way I can make my life better here and now.

 

Take care of each other.

J

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