Around this time of year there is lots of talk of starting over; of new beginnings. It’s always good to take stock – to take a step back from your life and identify the areas that aren’t working and to ask yourself how that situation can be improved.
However the phrase New Beginnings implies you draw a line under something and start again. But I don’t see it like that. To me you are still continuing the same journey, just with new motivations or skills – or both.
Regular readers of this blog will know my life has undergone some big changes in recent years – kick-started by getting treatment for a drink problem in 2016.
But I’m still me. Still Sam the wife, mother, friend. I live in the same house. Have the same career. I still love cats and cake and coffee. I still make lumpy mashed potato and dance as if no one is watching when a disco tune comes on the radio.
But spiritually, mentally, emotionally I have started over – things have fundamentally changed, due to the skills that addiction treatment, mindfulness and Buddhism taught me.
Take a health crisis I had shortly before Christmas. I suffered unexpected side effects from a medical procedure. It was scary. Yet I handled it so much better than I would have done a few years ago. In the past I would have catastrophized the situation and held it up as something really major – and I would have nurtured huge resentments over what had happened. Why me?
But Buddhism has taught me that life is full of ups and downs, so don’t attach to either. Good things happen and then pass. Bad ones do too. So, after the initial upset that perspective has really helped me through this challenging time.
Then there is AA – that organisation has taught me to accept the things I cannot change. And that’s what I have done. Instead of continuing to cry about the “what if”s” and “it’s not fair”s I’ve accepted what happened.
And that is how I now deal with the ups and downs of my writing career. Since I focused on my mental health, I have gained the ability to create distance between me and areas of my life that are sometimes stressful – to realise that if one book doesn’t do as well as another, for example, it’s not my fault. The universe isn’t out to get me. It’s just the way a writing career rolls. Of course, sometimes I get upset – I’m only human – but I re-calibrate, I re-center myself so much more quickly than I used to.
Learning about gratitude has been a massive help too and overall I’m just hugely grateful for the success I’ve had and the fact I am doing a job I love.
So if you want to change your life… if you feel unhappy with the status quo but are unable to move to that cottage by the sea or leave that demanding job or land an agent… don’t feel hopeless. New Beginnings are VERY possible just by changing the way you deal with the world and other people. Sometimes external change DOES need to happen – but may not be possible straightaway.
So changing internally will help you cope until you are able to alter the situation you are in.
Changing your inside will help you cope with the outside. There is a saying in AA – “It doesn’t get better, but you do”.
And if you could have moved to that cottage by the sea it might have proved lonely. Gaining a less demanding job might not have satisfied you intellectually. That may not have been the right agent for you. The life outside of you is, to some degree, out of your control and will suffer peaks and troughs whatever happens. And accepting that alone has been one of the most important realisations for me. These days there are so many expectations out there that we should be happy, happy, happy, the whole time – so that when something goes wrong we feel as if it shouldn’t have.
But take a step back from that point of view. Is it logical? NO. Bereavement happens. So do fall-outs. Redundancy. Rejections. Ill health. World crises. Life is about joyous times, but hard ones as well. And once you accept that, the difficult times can be easier to manage because you don’t feel quite as targeted.
So why not approach this year by joining a mindfulness class? Or writing a daily gratitude journal?
The New Beginnings that really matter are the ones that take place inside. Fundamentally changing your thought processes and perspective is like magic and really can see you through anything.
Best of luck. And have a wonderful 2020!