If you studied mental health you probably would be familiar with the case of N.N., a patient. N.N. was a man who suffered a closed head injury in an auto accident in 1981 when he was 30 years old. Tests revealed that he had sustained extensive damage to the frontal lobe of his brain. A psychologist interviewed N.N. a few years after the accident and recorded this conversation:
Psychologist: What will you be doing tomorrow?
N.N.: I don’t know.
Psychologist: Do you remember the question?
N.N.: About what I’ll be doing tomorrow?
Psychologist: Yes, would you describe your state of mind when you try to think about it?
N.N.: Blank, I guess . . . it’s like being asleep . . . like being in a room with nothing there and having a guy tell you to go find a chair and there’s nothing there . . . like swimming in the middle of a lake . . . there’s nothing to hold you up or do anything with.
The psychologist who worked with N.N. wrote that this man seemed to be living in a “permanent present.” Trapped in the “perpetual now.” My understanding of the lesson to be learned here is to never take your ability to think about the future for granted. It is a powerful and wonderful gift. Use it.