On Starting Over, Part 1

Starting over always sucked in Candy Land. I need to believe in the possibility of starting over, without having to go all the way back to the Gumdrop Mountains.

I’m a woman of modest means and Midwest sensibilities. I’m progressive. I meditate. I believe in hard work. I have little taste for the glut of self-help literature. I read it, but find it wanting. I’m more practical by nature.

You can’t always begin again. I was taught it early on. The milk has been spilt. The die has been cast. The cows are out of the barn. You’ve made your bed, now lie in it. You’re a day late. A dollar short.

It seems there are rare moments in life when there is the possibility of truly starting over. It’s a blackberry hidden in the bramble. Society smiles beneficently as you pick up the pieces; start a new life. Most stories like this involve crisis and desperate life change: divorce, the death of a loved one, a lost career, imprisonment, a cancer diagnosis. I’m sure you can think of more.

When someone successfully starts over the stories are always told as inspirations. We watch the Today show or Ellen and think:

“Wow! They overcame so much.”
“Look at how well they’re doing, and after all they’ve been through.”

Hallmark uses them to produce a non-stop liturgy of movies. My 70-year-old aunt watches them on Friday nights while sipping an expensive, imported wine.

I want to start over without trashing the life I’ve built. The one I’ve managed, just barely, to keep in my grip. I don’t want to injure the people I love the most. My son, my husband. I don’t want to nuke everything, and start over. What I want are targeted drone strikes designed to reshape what I’ve already got. (If we must speak militarily, which apparently I must.)

I come to change reluctant and expectant. Like birthing a babe. Terrified and thrilled in equal measure.

Life is change. I say it to my son often. I say it to myself, too. It isn’t always thrust upon us in the midst of crushing chaos. We can change right where we are, in quiet, gentle, profound ways. That is my aim anyway.

-M

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