My "starting over" time was in January--a perfect time for new beginnings don't you agree? A time when most of us start new diets, join the gym, write a new goal list, and so on. New beginnings, fresh, exciting—a great time to begin again. I spent this past New Year’s Day in my new (old) home which sits on its own little perch in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I just moved home after I lost it to a fire almost 2 1/2 years ago; but that is a story for another time... Today I'd like to talk about starting over and jumping off places. This part of my journey began in 2001 and it has been quite a ride! I found Nevada county early that spring and in spite of driving home on Hwy 49 in a rain storm that rendered me almost blind behind the wheel I couldn't wait to get back up here!! I spent that spring finding any excuse to return and would often drive up alone just to sit by the Yuba and dream... But I couldn't quite imagine how people lived up here. I was completely rooted in my life down the hill. Great job with PBS television, third book just hitting the bookshelves, 18 years of community involvement and relationships. Yet, something in the deepest (and unexplainable) part of my soul kept pulling me up the hill. There just had to be a way for me...
I spent the rest of that spring dreaming about it and the entire summer looking for a place that made sense with my list of requirements. I'd been raising my 5 children alone since my husband's death in 1995 and I still had two young children at home. They were my priority and of course, one of them didn't want to leave their friends. I knew my window for making this move was a small one. If I waited another year or two my son would be in high school, making a move much more difficult. So I spent the summer with a nice realtor looking, and looking, and looking. We never found anything that seemed 'right' and it was getting late in summer and I was getting burned out. Preparations for school were coming up and in light of months trying to make this move work, I decided the message was this - it's not yet time.
So I let it go and got busy preparing for fall and all that comes with it. It was a very early phone call that started me up again. I was half asleep, wrestling with myself to wake up and get moving when the phone rang. The voice on the other end was indecipherable. "Turn on your television!" it said. "What? Why? Who is this,” I asked as I rubbed my sleepy eyes trying to come into full consciousness. It's Susan, "Turn on your television now," she sobbed. "What channel," I asked. "ANY CHANNEL," she said.
My girlfriend had been watching television when the first plane hit the towers and as I turned on my TV and tried to wrap my head around the pictures I was seeing, the second plane hit tower two. I must have yelled out because both my children were in my lap before I knew it and we all were spellbound to that television we seldom ever turned on. Well, you know the rest of that story and each of you probably has your own to tell. This one is mine. That moment, or rather that day, I turned a corner in my life. I realized I had been living in fear--afraid to move, afraid to change, afraid to let go of what I saw as security in my life--but suddenly, watching those towers collapse and people soaring from windows it occurred to me there is no security in this life. Nothing solid. Everything moves. Everything changes.
I'd married my husband twenty years earlier because I loved him and he was my dearest and closest friend... but I also married him because I trusted him. I knew he'd make a great father because he already was one. I knew he adored me because he showed me every single day for two years prior. I knew he'd never hurt me, cheat on me, or leave me. He knew the same of me. What neither of us bargained for is that he would die.
By this time in my life story he'd been gone six years. I'd rebuilt a new life, new career, new friends, etc. And it was good. Why would I leave all of the things I'd worked so hard to establish? To move to the mountains? Alone? It didn't make sense logically, but the pull on my heart was not to be shushed and continued to whisper to me when I was still enough to listen. And then that fateful day, September 11, 2001 and I woke up to the understanding that there was nothing to fear. Nothing to hold on to, nothing to grasp, nothing solid. No reason to fear.
Within two weeks of that day a person crossed my path and led me directly to the house I now live in. Effortless. Easy. Perfect. It was in December, about a decade ago when I packed up my family, my personal belongings, and my pets and moved from our familiar and long-time residence, saying good-bye to wonderful friends, dear family members, and successful business relationships. Leaving a comfort zone I’d lived in for the past 15 years. Why, you may wonder? Because it was time—a time to move forward—a time for change. It was a time for starting over.
Starting over can be scary. Have you ever lost a job, or moved across the country, or ended a relationship? Yes, starting over can be hard and can even be frightening, and even sometimes painful, but it can be the best time of your life. The key is your attitude. While change can be sometimes difficult, change can also be beneficial. New opportunities will be presented for your personal growth and development. It is a wonderful time to re-examine other areas in your life. What other changes might you need to make to live a healthier, happier, and more satisfying life?
Starting over can be exciting! You don’t have to move, leave your job, dump your partner, or change your career to gain the benefits of starting over. You can start over today, right where you are, and begin to create the life you dream of living. When we really understand our ability to direct our lives where we want it to go it’s pretty empowering!
PURSUING YOUR DREAMS
If you are anything like me, you might have postponed making some changes you need to make in your life. What have you put off because you are afraid, have been discouraged by others, or have failed at in the past? Examples might include pursuing an acting career, starting a catering business, or even getting married again. Get up close to your fear and examine it in detail. What is at the root of your fear of pursuing an acting career, for example? Is it your high- school drama teacher's criticism of your acting technique that has stuck with you all these years? Get a different perspective. That was only one person's opinion. Perhaps he/she was having a bad day when they lashed out at you and your work. If necessary, take more acting classes until you feel more confident in your ability.
Honor your dreams. Begin by taking a deep breath and resolving to see it through once and for all. This requires a shift in attitude of course. Act as if your happiness (and your life) depends on it. It does, doesn't it? Promise yourself that you will do whatever it takes to change the things that make you feel like you aren't living up to your dreams, up to your potential to live a joyful, fulfilling life. Do it so that you can look at yourself in a new way - with pride and respect. Prove to yourself that you are not a quitter and that you are capable of creating your own happiness.
REACHING OUT FOR HELP
Sometimes starting over can mean letting go of old ideas, negative thinking, or bad habits. And sometimes that may mean you have to reach out to others for help. The first step in any change is admitting you have a habit or problem in your life that is neither healthy nor conducive to real happiness is, as you well know, the first step to positive change. Whether the habit is smoking, drug or alcohol addiction, or overeating, you may need to get help overcoming it. Physical and/or emotional abuse, while not physical addictions per se, can however be seen as emotional habits which may need outside intervention in order for you to get out of and avoid future abusive relationships.
The second hardest step is asking for help because pride, ego, shame, embarrassment, etc. can keep you trapped in your harmful habits. Someone I know recently said, “My pride and ego are killing me.” And in this case, no truer words were ever spoken. To reach out and ask for help, to admit to others that you can’t overcome whatever it is that stands between you and your happiness or peace of mind can be hard. You need to be very strongly motivated. One way to do this is to keep your focus on the benefits of giving up your habit, of not having to smoke, drink, gamble, or do drugs. Focus on the freedom from your habit. What will you be free to do? Exercise, get out of debt, or pursue a new career?
Your life is up to you. Prove it by kicking that bad habit once and for all. How many of your decisions in the past were made based on whether or not you could smoke, where you could smoke, and how often you could smoke, for example? How much of your life is determined by a habit (or habits) that is keeping you stuck and unhappy? That is even killing you?
DRIVING THROUGH OBSTACLES
It is true that life can throw us curves and it seems that how quickly we can "recover" can often be the difference between crashing and staying the course. I don't know much about racecar driving, but I did once know a driver. He told me that one of the first things they teach you is how to "look forward" and instead of concentrating on the trouble you may find yourself in, look up the road, ahead, to the place you want to go. I have tried to live with a similar philosophy. Not trying to live in the future, but being present in the moment with a vision looking just ahead. Where will I put my next step?
While many people have told me I am strong, I often felt like a coward, without the courage to "live in the moment" when the moment seemed too tragic. I got pretty good at looking at the road ahead. While it served its purpose during those times in my life, those habits or beliefs later created problems for me. I would not describe myself so much as strong as I would brave. Today I too am trying to live in the moment. To look neither too far ahead, nor back, but to sit still in what is… and that is the now. It is a different take on life for me and has required some intentional practice on my part. Old habits can be challenging to break however sometimes the tougher the challenge, the greater the benefit!
My mentor, Arlene, once told me I could start my day over at anytime. Today, if I catch myself ‘acting out’ in an old behavior or bad habit, I can stop and start over right that minute and I must tell you that there have been days I have started over several times!
What about you? If you could create the life you’ve always dreamed of, where would you start? What changes would be necessary to make those dreams come true? What steps would you need to start with? What can you do today? How would you feel at this very moment if you were living that life? Would the effort to make the changes be worth the result?
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
1. How do you feel about starting over? Do you see it as a wonderful second or third chance to make your dreams come true? Or do you see it as just another attempt that is doomed to fail? Check your attitude and get to the root of your fears. Your success depends on it.
2. What dream do you want to pursue but have given up on? Why? Be honest with yourself. Do you still want to pursue this dream or will it no longer contribute to your happiness? If not, let it go. But if it will make you happier, resolving to go for it can inject purpose and enthusiasm into your life.
3. What is keeping you from asking for help? Is it pride? Are you ashamed? Are you afraid? Whatever you are feeling use it to jump-start yourself into asking for the help anyway. In other words, instead of feeling ashamed, take pride in knowing that you are taking control of your life.
While you may have once thought that starting over can be hard or even frightening, you will find that the benefits far outweigh the challenges and that starting over can be a new beginning for your new life.
Why not start today?
© Cynthia Stewart
Cynthia "CiCi" Stewart is an international speaker, author, promoter, and literary agent. She has spent the past twenty years developing a writing career and business' that span the globe. Cynthia is a fiction and non-fiction writer and author of several books including Dream BIG! A Woman’s Book of Network Marketing, and Creating Wealth on the Web. Her short stories have been published in New York Times best-selling books, which include Chicken Soup for the College Soul, Christmas Miracles, Stories For a Grad’s Heart, and Heart Touchers. Her books have been translated into 15 languages and read worldwide. Cynthia writes for popular magazines, websites, and various editorials. She has been a guest on numerous radio and television shows including popular morning show, The View, hosted by Barbara Walters. In addition, Cynthia produced a nationally broadcast weekly show for PBS. With over thirty years in marketing, production, and special events Cynthia has created a way to merge all previous business into a creative and highly successful production company. As co-founder of Sierra Mountain Productions, Cynthia is Director of Production and Development.