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Past, Present, and Future Jon

June 7, 2023 by jonbo

Dia Beacon in Beacon, NY

Past and Future Jon are in a state of ephemeral disconnect and will never meet each other nor feel reality. Present Jon is the only one who actually gets to experience life in first-person. But if Present Jon wants happiness, comfort, and health, he must be willing to collaborate with both his past and future selves.

In college, Past Jon would leave assignments and studying for Future Jon to figure out. Inevitably, Future Jon (become Present Jon) would begrudgingly complete these tasks while cursing Past Jon for his foolishness the entire time. Nowadays when Present Jon is offered an interesting project to add to his already-overflowing pile of projects he eagerly says yes, writing checks that Future Jon will have to make good on.

This pattern makes for an interesting negotiation triangle. It was largely invisible to me as I was in the throes of it, and journaling was the first way I was able to meaningfully notice it. I’d write out plans and then go and read them back a few days later, surprised at how off Past Jon’s perception of Future Jon’s time and abilities was. It took a long time to notice and start gently untangling them.

The process was aided by my weekly reviews: a predictable time where I’d sit down and read all the things I wrote over the past week. At first, it was painful. It was the first time the three parts could no longer ignore each other. There were a lot of emotions that came up: frustration at how bad the tooling was, guilt at all the things Past Jon didn’t get done, anxiety at things that needed to get done next week. But slowly, this transformed into appreciation of the practice despite its frictions with compassion for Past Jon and a dawning recognition that I had influence over the emotional state of Future-turned-Present Jon.

A couple years into this, the practice has become a reliable conversational space for Past, Present, and Future Jon. It’s not always a well-behaved, perfectly-respectful conversation. But more often than not, Present Jon is in a position where he can respect both Past Jon’s experiences and Future Jon’s energy. It’s a time to celebrate the little things that Past Jon did well; to notice the ways Present Jon loved himself and tee up Future Jon to enjoy these things as well by leaving gifts. Fresh cleaned towels, leftovers for lunch, or an evening with nothing planned.

I see this of this as a form of parts work, a philosophy I am only beginning to explore and understand. I’ve found this framing to be helpful for making decisions on how to spend my time and energy, and I hope to continue to develop this practice by incorporating more somatic awareness practices and ultimately broadening the magnitude and fun of the collaboration games all the parts of me are capable of playing.