What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~ T.S Eliot (Taken from William Bridges’ book, Transitions)
“…what holds many people back is the inability to give up the hope for a better past.”
~ Irvin D. Yalom (paraphrased) from a CBC interview, 2015
February 5, 2016
This past Tuesday the fog of January began to lift. I am not sure why Tuesday happened to be the day but the sense of possibility began to assert itself. And hopefully, that creative resurgence characteristic of women my age that I referred to in my last blog posting will kick in. Where to begin? What to do? I like to jump into something with all kinds of enthusiasm but tend to get thwarted by the distractions of daily living that command my attention. There has to be another way.
Author William Bridges argues that in making a transition to something new (change in employment; family situation; new project; and so on) we have to let go of what “was”. Otherwise we can get stuck. At a concrete level we see this in the person who takes on multiple responsibilities without letting something else go. Relinquishing has many dimensions and may or may not be visible to others (e.g. starting your first job versus an internal or personal change). For example, it can include letting go of the way we have seen ourselves. However, to bring closure and be able to move forward, we need to acknowledge what we have lost even though we are on the threshold of something we very much want to do. I felt this when I gave birth to my sons. It was wonderful, but I thought about the freedom I had lost – longing to just pick up and go without accounting to anyone. I knew it would be a long while before I could do that again.
Surely in taking that important step in a new direction – whether it is speaking up at a meeting; starting a business; setting boundaries with family members – we have to acknowledge at some level the place we were before and let it go. It may be easier to be quiet in that meeting or just do the task rather than argue with our partner. But in order to move forward with our lives, we have to realize that we are giving something up and that may be difficult, even if the “old” way has to end. I say this recognizing we all have responsibilities that simply cannot be abandoned. There are obligations we need to honour. But sometimes we hold onto established patterns that are comfortable but no longer serve us well. And in the end we can end up carrying around a lot of baggage. Marley’s ghost comes to mind for me.
Perhaps the most pernicious burdens are the ones we repeatedly carry in our heads. If only things had been different! If only so and so had not done such and such! The one that holds me back is fear. What if I what I want to do doesn’t work out? How will I be judged? Stepping out into the wilderness without a compass or map, uncertain about the steps to take, can leave me feeling exposed. And I may not even be able to articulate what I am trying to do. Who wants that?
Acknowledging our past or previous ways of doing things is the starting point for new possibilities and finding our way forward. Maybe we aren’t happy with what the starting point looks like. But I like to think that all our experiences – the great and not so great ones – have prepared us for the adventures ahead. And in reflecting on those lessons, we need to be kind to ourselves – that wonderful old self of ours – who at the core is an adventurer!
How do we begin those adventures? We may need to find some creative ways to carve out time for ourselves to pursue another direction. We likely will need support from others. And we need to trust that the way forward will present itself if we are open to it. Letting go may be associated with wistfulness or anxiety, but it does open space for new possibilities that create a zest for living. That causes us to say (I certainly do) as we jump in to a new adventure: Oh wow! And, oh dear!