Starting over

In a post earlier this week, I mentioned the idea of starting over. Nature does it every year, when springtime bursts with new growth, replacing a tired-looking world with one of exuberance and promise.

But it can be easy to forget that starting over is possible for us as individuals, especially during the cold down-cycle of winter. That winter may be the actual one of the physical world, or it may be a metaphorical one. Maybe it’s a divorce or the loss of a job. Or perhaps it’s just the rut of doing the same thing day after day and not finding any joy in it. We all have periods in our lives when we feel we’re in some kind of holding pattern and periods when we feel we’re caught in a cyclone.

During those times, it’s natural to think it’s all beyond our control. In many ways, it is. But here’s the thing: we aren’t supposed to control everything around us.  And thinking that we should be able to only stresses us out (because we usually fail). What we can control is our thoughts, our perceptions about what is happening.

Sometime over the last few years, I read something that stuck with me. It was that everything we do is a choice. We are never forced to do anything; there is always an alternative. For example, do you really “have” to get up and go to work? No, you could stay in bed.  But then you could lose your job, your house, etc. So instead of thinking you “have” to go to work, you may want to think about it as you “get” to go to work. You “get” to be a good provider for your family. And just like that—it’s a privilege, not a sentence. Simply changing that one word in your thoughts can make a significant difference in your mood and subsequently the mood of those around you. And changing moods and attitudes can, and I believe usually does, change the course of what happens.

The options we’re offered may not always be the ones we’d like, but there are always options. So we make a choice. And then—and I think this is critical—we need to take ownership of that choice and its consequences. We can’t blame anyone else for what happens to us when we are the ones who made the choices that led us there. That can seem like a lot of pressure, I know. But the saving grace is knowing that life continuously changes; we will always be making another choice and then another and another. So we’re never stuck … unless we think we are.

We won’t always know the right choices to make or the right roads to take, but that’s kind of the point, I think. Life is a journey, not a race.  There is no prize for getting to a certain destination earlier than anyone else. And, as illustrated in a movie I enjoyed recently (“The Switch” with Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston), reality is usually messy.  The important thing is to make another choice, to continue the journey, being as honest as possible. Maybe when you feel lost from time to time, you’ll want to sit in the middle of the road and cry. That’s fine. Just remember to get back up and keep going. Don’t feel bad about not knowing what you’re doing; we all feel that way. It’s all a lovely mess, just the way it should be. And every day, every moment even, is an opportunity to make another choice and start on a new path.

This beautiful song talks about the influence of our thoughts and our ability to always start over. Listen to the words carefully. I find it a good reminder, and I hope you enjoy it too.

Start All Over Again, by Dave Koz and Dana Glover

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2 Responses to Starting over

  1. Mindfulknitter says:

    Beautiful post.

    • WalshMuser says:

      Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      It’s so easy to think we’re stuck on the path we’re on, as if we had committed to each and every decision for the rest of our lives and would be considered fickle if we decided to do something different. Deciding to change directions can feel like saying that we’re giving up or we had been wasting all that time on the former path. We tend to forget all the great experiences and learning we gained on that path: there is no wasted time. We too often judge ourselves and the progress of our lives harshly–and typically on a straight trajectory, as if any lifetime experience could be illustrated with a straight line. Rejoice in the many choices available each and every day. Embrace the squiggly lifeline! 🙂

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