Standing in the shower this morning I had somewhat of an epiphany. Somewhere between shampooing my hair, mentally running through my to-do list for the day and envisioning what my life might look like in ten years time, I realised that like many of my female friends, I am guilty of never living in the moment. Instead I live in my own parallel universe.
Few women will disagree that the female sex loves to over-analyse. For most of us we pride ourselves on having brains built like mega servers, processing and scrutinising every piece of information that has passed within ten feet of our senses. New alerts popping up every nano second to remind us to set up that direct debit, buy more milk or to recount that offensive comment the mother-in-law made over dinner two months ago.
While this ability to multi-task can sometimes feel like a magical power, more recently I’ve come to think of it as living in a ‘real-life’ parallel universe.
It’s far beyond me to postulate as to whether parallel dimensions genuinely exist in the physical world. What I do know is that they exist in my head. While I’m making dinner, watching TV or busy at work, my three doppelgangers – past me, present me and future me – live in complete, complicated unison.
‘Present me’ will be out shopping or cleaning the house when ‘past me’ creeps up on her unexpectedly to replay tapes from last week, last month or last decade. ‘Past me’ pines for the good old times from university and holidays at the same time as trying to figure out what she could have done better. Why didn’t I do French A-Level / a different degree / why did I lose touch with old friends / why on earth did I say that to a colleague last week?!
Meanwhile, as ‘present me’ is innocently making the beds or sunbathing on holiday, ‘future me’ will make her smug appearance, bustling onto the scene to question where my life is ‘going’. She’ll tell me that of course I’ll be happier when I pick-up that promotion, that life will be more exciting when I move house and that I really should put kids in my five year plan. ‘Future me’ will always come prepared with video previews full of generous prospects and hope of what life will be like – better, more exciting, just as I planned.
Every day I fail to stay in the present as I drift off into outer space to explore my very own multiverses. Stephen Hawking was right, space time isn’t linear, it bends and twists back on itself, warping my sense of reality every single day.
No doubt there are lots of men out there that reminisce about the past and plan ambitiously (or anxiously) towards the future, but experience tells me this inability to live in the present really is a female thing. Whether it’s a friend who is still having cold sweats about that typo that went into the company’s annual report or a sibling who just can’t stop fantasising about the day her boyfriend will get down on one knee and propose. There are too many of us struggling to focus on – and more importantly enjoy – the here and now.
Going back to my morning shower. As I clambered out of the bath and got a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I was reminded of a very linear timeline that would help me to dispel this existential crisis. Age.
As I examined, prodded and criticised my face and body, I remembered the many times I had looked at old pictures of myself and thought I was too fat, too short or not young or pretty enough. How I wished I could go back in time and tell my old self to just enjoy what she had. As I imagined myself in twenty years time leaping into the DeLorean and travelling back in time to say the very same thing to this neurotic woman in my bathroom, my space time continuum imploded on itself like a badly written sci-fi paradox. My mind cleared and all that was left was ‘present me’ – plonked firmly in today on my singular, unique, linear timeline.
As the old saying goes, there really is no time like the present.