“We were built to negotiate and champion life by evolving, re-crafting, and transforming – not, by hitting the reset button.” ~ Catherine Collautt, Ph.D., On Having One Life. Or What’s True About Reincarnation.

So often I have found that as we change – which we inevitably do in the course of this thing called Life – we are swept along a stream of thought that tells us that in order to fulfill our new desire we have to ‘start all over’. For example:

Cindy is unhappy in her marriage now; what does this mean? Does it mean she made the wrong decision 20 years ago when she decided to marry Dale? Does it even mean that in order for her to have the marriage she wants now she has to start all over with Stan? (Yes, I have watched some Golden Girls in my day. ;)) What is significant here is not that either of these may be true, but that her simply wanting something different now does not necessarily mean either of them. What it does mean is that Cindy is not desirous of what is; and, therefore, that in order for her new desire to be satisfied what is will have to change to accommodate it. It remains undetermined and underdetermined whether the marriage, say, is capable of sustaining the requisite changes, (or whether she needs to start over); just as it remains undetermined whether the marriage itself is a decision she could regret in good faith.

Sometimes, when your home no longer suits you, you make renovations to accommodate your new ‘situation’ (a.k.a. pregnancy); sometimes, you need to pick a new home altogether. And our culture has taught us little if not: when it’s broken – throw it out and buy a new one, it’s cheaper! This is the difference between industry and craft: a craftsman re-crafts his work until he finds that he can re-fashion it no longer; only then will he even consider throwing it out. Resourceful people do this too. My mother would knit a dress; and then, when wanting or needing something new, unravel the entire dress and make something else she wanted to wear out of it. A real cook makes a meal, uses the leftovers to make a bouillon, uses the bouillon as stock to make a risotto, uses the leftover risotto the next day to make some weird-but-delicious-fritter-things … eventually even the dog might get a meal out of it. A carpenter can take his own bed and turn it into a crib when he needs to. Start looking at your life this way; ask yourself: do I really need a new piece of wood, or can I reshape this one into what I am wanting now?

We must let go of the narrative that tells us that in order to get what we want now, and in order to change our life, we need a ‘do-over’: either in the form of getting another life after this; or by time-traveling to the past; or by completely starting over now. We do not need a new life in order to change this one. In fact what we are wanting now is deeply dependent on who we are now, which, in turn, is deeply dependent on everything that has gone before. Our current desire(s) does not actually make sense outside of the context of a continuation of the life experiences we have had.

A genuine start over is a response to crisis; when a system requires such radical transformation in order to continue to exist. By the time you are here, there is no more debating, there is no choice – or rather there are just the two: life or death. So if you are still capable of debating, and are unsure of what to do next, ask yourself whether you are crying wolf. If you’re not at the point where this decision has to be made, don’t go there: why force yourself to make a decision you are apparently not ready to make? Just move forward. Just do what you (do) know. You know that you’re feeling claustrophobic (in your relationship, career, lifestyle, …) – get some space. Ask for space. Why are you seriously considering asking for a divorce, (even if you’re only asking yourself), especially when you’re not sure that is what you want – when you haven’t even asked for what it is you know you want: e.g. space? Make sure the whole ‘start over’ impulse isn’t simply a refusal to use the balls or ovaries you were born with to tell whom or whatever you need to, ‘I need this to change,’ instead of slinking out the back door.

Actually trying to make it work, seeing if you can re-craft this relationship, this career, this bookshelf, into something you can enjoy now, you allow life to show you whether you/it/he/she can (or cannot) work. You do not have to decide: if it is impossible for your partner, or your job, or whatever, to give you the space you need, while satisfying his/her/its own needs, this will become clear to you. And as it becomes clear to you, so does what is best for you. And should that mean leaving, or starting all over, making some radical transformation if you have to, will be a far easier thing to do. Even if for no other reason than you now know it to be the thing you have/should/want to do. If your current situation cannot transform itself to accommodate the transformation in you, let it crumble around you. You do not have to kill it. You can let it dissipate.

Remember, a do-over is an extreme measure – like death. We were built to negotiate and champion life by evolving, re-crafting, and transforming – not, by hitting the reset button. I suspect we didn’t come with those for a good reason, like, I don’t know, say, a trigger-happy finger (‘Wait I messed up – start over! … Crap, again – start over! Start over, start over, start over!’).


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