In 1976, I fled my old life in Montreal like a man escaping a house on fire. I abandoned job, apartment, friends, and ran for dear life. That summer in the farm country of Alberta, it was wonderful to discover that I was able to live and work in a different world than I had known, driving tractors, pitching hay bales, riding horses. Then the autumn approached and these harvesting jobs dried up. The old panic that had expelled me from Montreal resurfaced with a vengeance.
In TSK terms, I think that the past followed me from Montreal to Alberta, along with my lifelong habit of projecting onto the future familiar images of a past that had become hateful to me. After a few months of feeling rejuvenated by new activities and vistas, the version of myself that felt stuck, hopeless, and unable to change took over and my panic returned twofold because I now saw myself as having failed in my recent abortive flight to freedom.
Then something shifted. A door to the future swung open. It was a door I had been unable to see until I walked through it and turned around to see a world that was suddenly more open and friendly, and in which I could see that everyone else was just like me–having a hard time staying happy. So how did this happen? Sitting in my YMCA room in Calgary, Alberta, trembling like a rabbit who hears the coyote breathing on the other side of a sage brush, the future was an alien trying to devour me. Then an insight came in through the window:
“Here I am, exactly where I dreamed of being as I paced the claustrophobic cubicles of those programming jobs in Montreal. I’m living, working, exploring in a new world. I’m just like all those people who I saw this afternoon lining up for temp jobs that can be hard to find. Why would I allow myself to collapse in fear at the first sign that the future may be not exactly what I thought it would be. That was precisely what got me into such a dark place in Montreal. I stood up, left the room, and had found three part-time jobs in the next 24 hours. And the sun was shining again.
My published memoir, “The Flying Caterpillar”, describes this turning point more fully. Its first chapter is available online at:
Ten years later, I picked up a copy of “Time, Space, Knowledge”, in an Albuquerque bookstore, and finally began to understand that it was the future that wafted into my life that day in a Calgary YMCA room, dissolving the tale of doom (drawn from the past) that I believed was my only world. — Michael