The New Beginnings that Matter Most

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!

21 comments

  1. Joy Lennick says:

    Great to read the above, Sam, as I try to live the same way. It’s our reaction to things which colours them! In my case, it’s come with age. Frustration is a bigger problem when older as your energy levels fall but you just have to accept that its the norm. Things, especially our minds and bodies, change, so being mindful and thankful helps enormously. Being ‘in the moment’ is another blessing….Appreciate all our many blessings, A healthy, happy New Year to you. Hugs xx

    • Sam Tonge says:

      You are so right, Joy – I think getting older is all about accepting change and whilst it’s not always easy, I’m grateful I’ve learnt that, because fighting against the impossible is the way to poor mental health.
      Thanks so much, and wishing you a lovely 2020 too. Here’s to living in the moment and being grateful for it 🙂 xx

    • Sam Tonge says:

      Thanks so much, Dawn – you inspire me too, the way you keep trucking on and not giving up… sending love and good wishes to you too x

  2. Sue Blackburn says:

    Wonderfully wise, inspirational words as ever Sam and thank you for sharing this fantastic perspective on life you have learned. It is being able to accept that bad things happen and that how we deal with it is the most important thing. And being grateful, looking for the good things whatever they may be. And yes living in the moment, not easy to do but I’m trying all the time! Wishing you all the very best of health, much happiness and continued success lovely lady Sue xxx

    • Sam Tonge says:

      Thanks so much, lovely Sue, wishing you the best 2020 ever.
      Yes, gratitude and acceptance – those two things can achieve so much. And you are right and that’s what I learnt in treatment – it’s how we deal with challenges that really counts Sam xxx

  3. Alison Courtenay says:

    I totally agree with everything you say, getting older does make a difference with confidence, not worrying about what others think of you but also experiencing the loss of my mum has had a profound effect. I started reading mindful daily quotes and taking on the mantra of we never know what is going to happen so live each day and be grateful for everything in your life, its changed my attitude completely and now don’t sweat the small stuff especially at work! Brilliant blog Samantha xx

    • Sam Tonge says:

      Sorry to hear about your mum, Alison, but well done you – it’s not always easy, but I truly believe you can rewire your brain with daily effort. Gratitude has massively changed my life and I find daily quotes really useful. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year 🙂 Sam xx

      • Alison Courtenay says:

        Thank you Sam, I do believe that you can rewire your brain as well although why do we have to live through heartbreak and hardship first before going down this route, how many people do you hear say I wish I could tell my younger self the things I know now…. All part of learning I guess, unless you experience these things you would never be able to overcome them and learn from the process, there is no shortcut, you need to feel things otherwise where is the need to improve xx

        • Sam Tonge says:

          Sadly I think you are right, Alison – and I guess that is all we can hold on to, if we go through a terrible situation… it has made us stronger and, hopefully, more able to cope in the future. Perhaps it’s why older people have always been seen as wise 🙂 xx

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