Starting Over

Perchance-to-FlyIt seems inevitable that we will be required on our journey through life to start over. Often, this isn’t a matter of our own choosing. Circumstances such as illness, the ending of a relationship, or death of a loved one are both devastating as well as an opportunity to recreate our life. Alternatively, we come to a place in our life when we feel like the life we are leading doesn’t reflect who we imagined ourselves to be. We feel a certain restlessness, an internal pressure to come into a deeper integrity with the soul’s calling. Choreographer, Martha Graham, called this the “blessed unrest” or the “divine dissatisfaction” of the artist. But truly, we are all artists and our primary canvas is our own life.

Starting over is never easy or smooth. There are no maps that hold for all circumstances. Each of us is unique in our way of responding to change. Is it crisis or is it opportunity? Perhaps both. If we were traumatized early by our parents moving every couple of years for work, starting over can feel daunting. On the other hand, if we experienced this as a welcome adventure, starting over might feel normal. For most of us, however, career changes, relationship endings, illnesses, etc. are challenging—even if we initiated these changes ourselves.

First, we will feel an Internal resistance to change. Yes, we are evolutionary beings, but we are also deeply conservative. We are regulated by both this urge to evolve and another cosmic power that cosmologist, Brian Swimme, calls homeostasis—the necessary state of order, balance, and safety. Whether we initiate a life change or are on the receiving end of something we didn’t ask for, we are about to disturb our homeostasis. How we deal with this will depend to a large degree on the dynamics of our prenatal, birth, and early nurturing. If our experience during this formative time of our life was chaotic or even life-threatening, we will need to bring these feelings to consciousness, in order to differentiate between this time in our life and today’s circumstances. (Paradoxically, we may repeatedly initiate change in our life in order to bring this early trauma to consciousness for healing).

At some point, we will need to move into acceptance. The transition is happening. It doesn’t matter if we initiated it or not, we need to accept that we are undergoing it. Again, the metaphor of birth is apt. We come to a place where we realize that resistance is futile. We let go, for better or for worse. At this point, issues of trust will arise. Can we trust that the universe is for us, and not merely tossing us around mercilessly and for no good reason? Usually, during this period issues of early trust arise, and if we were given reason to distrust that we are being held and kept safe in all of life circumstances, these feelings will be present to experience consciously and heal.

As we arrive at acceptance, we may also experience grief. We are leaving behind a familiar life, somebody we once loved, a network of relationships, a community of people who were once friends, or a stage of life. Grieving may include remorse for actions we have taken or neglected to take. It may also include the need to enter into a process of forgiveness. And we may simply feel deep loss at the end of an era, the end of way of defining ourselves in the world, or the end of a particular self-image. It is critical to the dynamic of starting over, that we do not rush this time of grief. The more we can resolve any lingering anger, self-doubt, recriminations, or other feelings, the more space we create for the birth of the new. If we do not spend sufficient time with our grieving, we are more likely to simply recreate the past, rather than allow the new to emerge.

The next stage could be called allowing the new life. Yes, this can feel like we’re about to jump off a cliff. But it’s also a unique opportunity to actually allow new dimensions of our self to emerge. Perhaps we’ve always wanted a tattoo, but we’ve never allowed ourselves it, because it was so contrary to the family values we grew up with. Maybe there is a friend from childhood, with whom you always felt exhausted after spending time with, and you want to renegotiate the relationship or even end it. You’ve always thought about writing a book, or doing body building, or learning a musical instrument. You feel a call to start a meditation practice, but have never wanted to be slotted as one of those new age types that your friends make fun of. Jenny Joseph’s poem captures this practice of allowing the new well.

WHEN I AM AN OLD WOMAN I SHALL WEAR PURPLE

With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Now is the time to self-define, to worry less about what others think, and to retire the inner judge that shames you or whispers to you that you aren’t smart enough or don’t deserve it.

In this challenge of starting over, which comes to us all, we begin to experience for ourselves that the perceived crisis is also our greatest opportunity. We can discover wells of resilience and creativity that didn’t know were there to draw from. All of us, all of the time, are in the process of being recreated by a universe that is evolving – with or without us. The question is whether we are willing to be conscious participants and learn the art of starting over.

23 Comments on “Starting Over

  1. It’s ‘not so strange’ but this morning I asked Mike if he had heard from you lately — and then, this evening i see an email with your new website and work.

    My first reaction: I like the site very much — it is really you — has a lot of integrity and honesty and springboards off the work that you already had begun in “Home for Evolving Mystics.” There is lots of great information in the writing and I really love the images you have chosen to support what you are saying. It’s a gift you have.

    The website was easy to navigate through and the Services page was clear.

    The only one thing I saw was a picky design thing — The Philosophy (and maybe in other sections, too) had a lot of hyphens at the end of the lines and in some instances at the end of the paragraph there was only one word on a line by itself. Kind of distracting to the eye.. So, if you can somehow get rid of hyphenation or maybe not centre the text…

    1. You’re right Marg, thanks. If you check now, that page is laid out like the others. Thanks for the great feedback.

  2. Good to hear your “”voice” again, Bruce. Be well in all you take on or take up. I’m sure you have the gifts needed…

    My copy of starting over – and it might just be my iPad – was cut off to the left hand side by about half a word. And yet there was some extra space on the right hand side of the e-page. I really appreciated the philosophy of “Starting Over” that you shared.

    Light & Love,
    Jen-Beth

  3. Good to hear your “”voice” again, Bruce. Be well in all you take on or take up. I’m sure you have the gifts needed…

    My copy of starting over – and it might just be my iPad – was cut off to the left hand side by about half a word. And yet there was some extra space on the right hand side of the e-page. I really appreciated the philosophy of “Starting Over” that you shared.

    Light & Love,
    Jen-Beth

    1. Jen-Beth, thanks for the feedback. The problem is that the site is not fully responsive for mobile devices yet. But soon! All the best…

  4. I love all you wrote as I am also in the early days of refirement!! Loving it.
    However I’m frustrated as I can’t read the left side of your blog! It’s too close to the edge- missing all the first words of each line.
    Blessings on your new life
    Kathy

  5. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom Bruce. Being over eighty years old, I have had many changes I have had to accept and in fact am in the midst of one right now. It is acceptance that is hard but inevitably what leads to new life and joy.

  6. Hello Bruce!
    It’s like hearing from an old friend. So happy you are beginning a new adventure. I may be starting a new adventure of my own, if I find the courage. May need to talk to you.
    I was checking out your new website and it is quite aesthetically appealing. In the Vision section, I could not connect with the articles for “grieve heartbreak”, “responsibility for your life”, and “celebrate joy of being alive”. Under Philosophy, that piece about personality, soul and Spirit is very enlightening. It does not present as three separate sections, however, and I suspect that’s what you were after.
    Kudos for figuring out how to set up this beautiful website!

    1. Thanks Ann, happy to talk. The problems you refer to are now fixed. Check them out. Were you using a mobile device? It’s not fully responsive yet.

  7. Hi Bruce, I have been through your web-site and find it unique to my experience. I like the images that reveal the theme of the article and blog. I have dipped in to some of them and all give me something to meditate on. Again, for me, your reflections though not grounded in a specific scripture still offer a sense of the Holy and out of that become a safe place to ruminate in.

    On another note, I did not experience any technical difficulties.

  8. It am not qualified really to comment on your website except to say that I like it. It has a personal element to it that is missing in so many “professional” sites. I like particularly the “I am present…” images and the distinctions between spirit, soul, and personality. It left me thinking about what an image would look like that portrayed the integration of these in a kind of layered effect.

    It is good to hear from you again and to learn what you are doing now. Somehow “Starting Over” hardly seems accurate for I found that your website integrates in a beautiful way many of the threads you were chasing in you Home For Evolving Mystics and what you have decided to do, on reflection does not surprise me –except the fact that you have so much energy still.

    One thought. Perhaps you will in this phase of your career experience some things (e,g dealing with people/communities with addictions) that will help you explore the problem of evil and incorporate this into your philosophy. While in a theoretical way I would appreciate reading something from the evolutionary perspective that does this, perhaps it is better not to pay too much attention to this in any practical way. The occasional experience I had of what seemed to be evil in my own work in public housing felt as if it could be a black hole. I continue to wish for you the way of the wind,

  9. Hi Bruce,
    It is good to hear from you and I see that you continue to be a blessing in this world, fully present to and responding authentically to the evolutionary impulse. Your website is very engaging with the artwork and you continue to speak so eloquently, from the heart, which is what this world needs.
    Sending many blessings of love and light to you in your new venture,

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