A Masterclass in Starting Over

I’m at a dead end. I’m almost 40 years old. I’ve wasted my life.

Yeah, but now you got a chance to start over. You know? Phil, remember when we were kids? And we’d be playing ball and
the ball would get stuck up in a tree? And we’d yell “Do over!” Huh?

Yeah.

Your life is a “do over”. You got a clean slate.

From the movie City Slickers, 1991

I talk with my sister most weekends. She’s in Tulsa, I’m in Santa Fe. Our weekly consults started as our own private book group. Hey! Let’s both read a book and talk about it together. Because why wouldn’t I do that kind of thinking and exploring with my own sister instead of a group of strangers??? We read some good ones and wrangled over philosophy, food and what gleanings felt relevant to our lives. But when Covid hit, we were both sucked into a frenzy of work situations trying to deal with it – she in healthcare, me in travel. Our weekend talks became more a lifeline about coping than explorations in ideas and interests. I don’t regret losing the books. Too much to take in right now anyway. And the idea of one more thing that “must be done” probably would have sent me screaming into the hinterlands. I’ve enough on my plate these days.

But I cannot tell you the number of hearty laughing sessions and insight that have come out of those talks. My sister has been a lifeline of sanity, good cheer and good advice. I tell her all my crazy thoughts. She tells me of her ups and downs. We agree that it’s all pretty challenging but that it’s worthwhile to do our best.

Most recently, I shared a funny thought that came to mind. Scrolling on social media, I occasionally come across adds for Masterclass. You know: Annie Liebovitz teaches photography. Steve Martin teaches comedy. Martin Scorcese teaches filmmaking. Margaret Atwood teaches writing. Learn from the very best… I laughed and told her I’d heard an echo in my head. Masterclass: Suzie Briddsang teaches starting over.

I’m finally able to broach the topic, unwilling as I’ve been for months: What if things don’t go back to the way they were? What if travel doesn’t resume in a reasonable amount of time? Or if it does but is so altered that my heart-and-soul endeavor of the last three years (Rowan Tree Travel) has to fold?

Ouch, ouch, ouch.

My sister’s response, echoing that in my own mind: first a shrug, then “Well, then you’ll start over. You’ve done it before. Many times, in fact.”

Me: “So many times that I should teach a Masterclass!”

We laughed the kind of laugh you can only share with someone who knows you well, knows your history, and “gets you” as well as anyone outside your own mind could.

“Seriously”, she said, looking suddenly (yes, you know it’s coming) very serious. “Think how many people are going to need to start over after this. Some in big ways, with businesses gone and family lost to them. Others in just facing a different, post-pandemic reality. I think your perspective on starting over could be really useful.”

I laughed again and offered up another silly quip about my masterclass in starting over. We moved on to other topics. First vaccination in our family received! Things are settling in at the house now that parental move, kitchen renovation and massive unpacking and purging has (mostly) been done! A rundown on Covid status related to friends and family (some contractions, multiple mild cases, one death in the extended network). What we’ll be up to for the rest of the day. We signed off in good spirits and ready to face the week.

But me, being me, I keep circling around to that idea of starting over. Maybe not starting over, exactly. We can’t undo what has already taken place. Call it starting again. Or, as in the scene from the movie City Slickers, where one character is lamenting the loss of his marriage, a “do over”. Or even, from my favorite super-obscure series, The IT Crowd, what to do when things just are not working: reboot. Have you tried turning it off and then turning it on again?

Starting over is not necessarily about starting from a blank canvas. It’s more about accepting that things are different and that what you do will now need to be different. The impetus for change might be self-induced. You recognize that the resistance, the drag, is so great that the effort involved simply cannot overcome the impediment(s) attached. Or, it might be a situation involving wholesale, rug-pulled-out-from-under-you events. A pandemic. A death. A betrayal. A diagnosis. Big stuff that you can’t overcome. Okay, take a deep breath. Either way, something has happened that changes the landscape of your life and you’re going to have to address it.

<insert curseword of your choice here>

<maybe again, if needed>

<if you’re like me, throw in a third for good measure>

Okay. I hear you. I’ve been there. So many times. And I’m not going to sugar coat the situation. It sucks. Change sucks. Pain sucks. Disappointment sucks.

Now’s the time to make up your mind though. Are you in this for the long haul? Because you can give up. I’ve seen people do it. Let bad or painful circumstances drag you under. You stop fighting, stop reaching for air, stop learning and growing because the process involves too much pain. I’ve seen two distinct ways to respond to a devastating blow. You can throw in the towel. You can rest, recover, then keep fighting. You choose.

Option 1: You lie on the mat, shake your head to clear your vision, get up and walk out of the boxing rink. Perfectly understandable. Who needs more bruising? Why would you willingly place yourself in an arena where you know you’re going to face difficulty, possibly get knocked down, and most likely will experience pain? Get the fuck out! And don’t even think about boxing ever again.

Option 2: You lie on the mat, shake your head to clear your vision, take a deep breath. Then you get up and ready yourself for another round of boxing.

Here’s a little secret I’ve learned: choosing option one does not necessarily take you out of harm’s way. Exit the ring. Go ahead. Guess what? Still alive? yes? Then you’re still going to face difficulty, possibly get knocked down, and will most likely experience pain. That’s just life. And if that’s so, wouldn’t it be more fun, more fulfilling, to do so in the boxing rink? Engaged in something you want to do? Reaching for something you want to achieve? You might end up the victor. You’ll certainly have been a boxer. You’ll definitely have been in the game. You’ll be an engaged participant rather than an unwilling pawn.

Starting over begins with the acceptance of circumstance and pain. These are steps that cannot be avoided. But if you’re willing, and don’t shrink from unpleasantness in pursuit of a worthy goal, you will successfully start over. Or, start again, if you prefer. Have you tried turning it off and then turning it on again?

It’s becoming a seasonal tradition for me to do some writing between Xmas and New Years. Often it’s the only chunk of time available to me where I can shut out the constant “to do” list of everyday life. So I’m going to make an attempt, every day this week, to identify the processes I’ve used to repeatedly reboot my own life. What helped? What was a useless, interminable wast of time? What did I do when I lost heart (which I did, many times)? And how much was moved by will vs. serendipity? I’ll be interested in hearing your thoughts, observations. Please feel free – invited, even!- to pst comments.

All this and more. Stay tuned for Masterclass.

13 comments

  1. Hey Suzie!!

    I REALLY liked this post. It was the right length for me and really spoke to me ( not that your other posts are not great, they are. I read them because I love your writing. ). I am writing to ask if I can send it to my brother. I think he will benefit from it and enjoy your writing too.

    Let me know.

    Sending you love, affection and hugs.

    Zevi

    בתאריך יום ב׳, 28 בדצמ׳ 2020 ב-18:31 מאת Studio Briddsang :

    > esuzabeth posted: ” I’m at a dead end. I’m almost40 years old. I’ve wasted > my life. Yeah, but now you got a chance to start over. You know? Phil, > remember when we were kids? And we’d be playing ball andthe ball would get > stuck up in a tree? And we’d yell “Do over!” H” >

    Like

  2. Great,

    Such a good idea so many people seem to have little access to inner flexibility.

    I look forward to reading what comes.

    I too am in the middle of doing such things .

    updating my astrology website

    and developing a resiliency building energetic session.

    I am offering to people to see how it is received,

    Would you like to experience it?

    here is the blurb

    quite woo woo 🙂 inspired by Lee Cartwright work

    Join Nika Annon in energetic sacred safe space to nurture resiliency and support the return of any parts of yourself that are caught in a dimension instead of the flow of life

    i create a sacred safe container enveloping our fields and holding you in scared space inviting you to relax into an altered state of consciousness. inviting in healing energies, the ancestors, entities of sky and earth, micro and macro to be guardians for your experience. This a foray into an supported altered state of consciousness, allowing your field to absorb of chi (prana) which I calibrate to resonate with your frequency making it available for absorption Through acknowledging and engaging the brain(s) with sensation, intention voice and thought relaxing into the complex multidimensionality of memory experience and understanding, we invite the pelvic brain to replenish and nourish itself by absorbing the radiance of the sun the pull of the earth and the scope of the cosmos to reorient and reclaim any parts any energy that need completion. This returns energy to the whole self and resources us in a gentle integrative ways. Clearing all that not longer serves returns energy to your present time reorienting to self and center.

    This process takes about an hour. We can do it now over zoom or the phone.

    This is a very deep gentle process,

    so fabulous that you are doing this!

    On Mon, Dec 28, 2020 at 9:31 AM Studio Briddsang wrote:

    > esuzabeth posted: ” I’m at a dead end. I’m almost40 years old. I’ve wasted > my life. Yeah, but now you got a chance to start over. You know? Phil, > remember when we were kids? And we’d be playing ball andthe ball would get > stuck up in a tree? And we’d yell “Do over!” H” >

    Like

    • Mmmm…. I like your term “inner flexibility”, especially after having just done my first yoga session after weeks of ignoring that need. Thanks for sharing your newest endeavor!

      Like

  3. “Seedlings of life sometimes come out of the fertiliser of what was left behind.”
    Gillian Duce
    I liked your blog but don’t see life as a fight, me as a boxer. If we had to fall down, get up and fight – everytime – life would be too exhausting. I like better your other methods of acceptance and reflecting on it – that door that just closed – then open the next door and explore. In my situation, climate change chased me out of the California desert and S. California where I’ve lived my entire life. I just turned 70 yrs. yesterday and the move was brutal on me, mainly emotionally, but also physically as I lost 20 pounds due to anxiety. I had never even been to Oregon and knew no one here but my daughter-in-law’s cousin. My old dog died 3 months after arrival, but I adopted a cat 3 days later. Covid is raging and I can’t volunteer, visit places, travel, or meet people really. But, I met a wonderful woman who is now my friend. I’ve started “earthing,” barefoot walking on grass, got my library card, and I got my first smart TV.
    I waited to love this place; as I told my son, Scotland is my favorite place on earth and Oregon is similar in climate and natural beauty – I’llbe okay. I’m near a creek and a river and there are birds and squirrels.
    Life is always about change and, yes, loss. But, through the experiences of our one glorious life, we learn that there in the near distance is more joy, more beauty, and more to learn.

    Like

    • Cheryl, thanks for commenting. Boxing may be an overly brutal analogy – good point there. Although if I stop to think about it, some of the blows have been stunners. All of life is not a fight though. I strongly agree with that. Thanks for reminding me.

      Like

  4. I’m mulling over this topic. I’m in need of a sort of reboot. But two things are perplexing. A successful reboot probably involves eliciting some change in some other folks. How does one do that? And how do we overcome feelings that are deeply rooted? I won’t skip class!

    Like

    • Hi Donna. Mulling is a good activity for a snowy morning. I personally have given up any effort to move, motivate or elicit change is anyone other than myself. I’ve never found it to be effective. Plus I get super frustrated by the process. It always goes the same. Me: Hey! Here’s what you should do! Them: Huh. Final outcome: me gritting my teeth. I don’t want to have to pay for dental work I can’t afford. So I’ve tried not to follow that route anymore. But how to overcome feelings that are deeply rooted… that’s something to address. It’s been on my mind too. Thanks for the suggestion.

      Like

  5. I like this.
    Yes, big changes are here, like them or not. Our lives will never be what they were. Similar, perhaps, and that’s if we’re lucky. I’m slowly packing, headed to … somewhere. Have to sell this place before I decide. Perhaps Green Valley. Maybe South Carolina. Could be Louisville. I just don’t know.
    In any event, it will be a a big do over wherever I land.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! Emilie! That’s a big change! Exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. Big time do over. I’ve neglected to say it, but some do overs are hugely GOOD. I’ve a feeling yours will be one of those.

      Liked by 1 person

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