Monday, 19 June 2017

How To Start All Over Again, Again... Part 1

It can happen in a multitude of ways. It could have been of your own making, it could have been done to you, or it could be a deadly combination of both.  Perhaps it was an event that’s left you stunned. Or maybe it quietly seeped in without your realising till now. Now you know though, it’s obvious. Life is remarkably different and you didn’t plan it this way. 

In the long hours of frustration where you try and figure out “how” and “why” and “what the actual fuck” you’ll periodically find yourself sighing, shutting your eyes slowly and surrendering aloud “It is what it is”. Your identity was once so bound up in what you had, but now you feel much more defined by what you’ve lost. You’re forever changed, you’re the walking wounded, there’s a limp to your step, you’re a cat with a big ol’ chunk taken out of her ear. You visibly tell a story of the shit that has went down. 

There is an uncomfortable stillness now and a ringing in your ear. There are gaping voids that used to be full to brim. When you wake in the morning, there are no messages waiting to be read.  Your weekend plans are nil and the streets are full of ghosts from your former life. Your resources are depleted and you feel vulnerable. 

Though the circumstances will be unique and that can leave you feeling so very isolated, the sobering reality is - you aren’t the first. 

Yes, you don’t know it yet but by feeling like you don’t belong in your own life you’ll find belonging among the least likely of sorts - those who’ve lost their jobs, their faith, their hope, their loved ones, their standing in a community, their lovers, their friends, those who have lost respect for themselves, or others. The loss makes you feel like a loser and losers don’t feel like they have much to bring to the table. But you’re welcome at this table 

Welcome to the club that you never wanted to be part of. You recognise some of the members, maybe you used to throw them sympathetic glances as your sped by in the fast lane, maybe their limping slowed you down and frustrated you, maybe you found them altogether unsightly and turned your gaze away. Well, you’re one of them now. At first you’ll be ashamed. But then you’ll start to feel a sense of belonging among the Comrades in Loss.  Eventually you’ll feel proud of your membership. You’ll learn that all the greatest people walk with a limp and when they speak, you’ll hear the hard earned authority in their voice, a voice that has a warmth of humility that can only be gained through the humiliation of life going unexpectedly off piste. 

But all that wisdom and solidarity is yet to come. For now you have to let the dust settle.  It’s hard to see when the air is thick from the aftermath.  Like a wave hitting you, you’re scrambling under the surface needing a fresh supply of air but not knowing which way is up.  It’s disorientating, I know. 

For those of you that needed the repetition of ‘Again’ in the title: you didn’t think you’d find yourself here again, at least not so soon.  For you, this isn’t just 'Plan B', you’ve worked your way further into the alphabet by now.  Maybe you thought you’d already had your portion of lessons learned? Maybe you’re confused because you’ve already stepped into the great unknown and built a life from rubble.  Maybe you spent years quietly growing in confidence, learning to own your story and even grew to be proud of your battle scars.  But we all know what pride comes before. And so here you are... again.  

All the old motivational platitudes fall on deaf ears because really, sometimes what doesn’t kill you...accumulates. But here is one aphorism that is important for you to hear:
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” - Heraclitus

You are not the same, this is not the same.  Yes old wounds may be opening and that is producing an all too familiar pain. What you thought was fresh, green, hope has not gone forth and prospered. And you’re back to the dust again. But you’ve acquired muscle memory - and you didn’t have that the first time around. It is precisely because you’ve been through this before that means your approach and perspective can be better, your recovery process honed. I’m trying hard not to say the phrase “fail better”, but dammit it’s true, you’ve learnt to fail better. The muscle memory engages and you know that right now is not a time to react, “this is the time to be slow, lie low to the wall, until the bitter weather passes.” (John O'Donohue)

This is your desert time, but it won't last forty years because you've read Oh the Places You’ll Go too many times. You, my friend are resilient and despite how you feel in this terrible moment, you'll eventually find the courage to build things again. But first reflect, recoup, take stock...