A Fresh Start -" What are you waiting for?"
“Tomorrow is the first blank page in a new book. Write a good one.” Brad Paisley
Ahhh…That time of year again that we look forward to with the promise and anticipation that we can start over again. Wipe the slate clean. Move on from the mistakes, the mishaps, the losses of the previous year, the promises broken, the goals unattained, that annoying five pound pudding top that has taken up permanent residence over the waistband of your pants - even the stretchy ones. And we get to wipe it all away and create a newer, better, healthier, kick butt version of ourselves just by turning the page on the calendar. It’s awesome, right? It’s like an automatic hall pass, a pass go and collect $200, get out of jail free, hakuna matata, life is an AMAZING OPPORTUNITY. And you don’t have to fill out some form or questionnaire, take a Facebook test, write an essay as to why you deserve a clean slate or how life should ‘pick me’. It’s just a given. A gift. A fresh start to do whatever you want to do with your life.
So what do most of us do with this fresh start?
Well - we make a list! Because who doesn’t love a list? We list either on paper or mentally all the amazing things we are going to accomplish in this next year. I’m going to lose those five pounds, go to the gym, take control of my health, make better choices with the food that goes in my body. I’m going to pay off all my debt and take a trip. I’m going to organize my home, my finances, my body, my life and be so happy and positive and full of joy! Take charge and superhero the crap out of everything that wasn’t right in the past and make it awesome. Sounds pretty good, right? Right!
This was pretty much my list from last year. And it went exactly according to plan, just like that. For about 3 days. And then something happened. Life.
Someone spilled bleach on a pile of laundry. Not the white laundry, the darks.
The dog ate a sock and needed surgery.
The Christmas bills rolled in. Like tumbleweeds during a windstorm.
And I discovered "Jacked Ranch Dipped Hot Wings Doritos". I couldn’t get to the gym, Lean Cuisine took a backseat to Wendy’s, my bank account was dying a slow death and that muffin top became a full fledged donut that no amount of spanx was going to disguise.
I am all for wiping the slate clean and starting over. I think it’s a necessary part of life, a way of being able to forgive ourselves for past transgressions - in whatever form those transgressions are - and move forward. Be a better version of ourselves. Be a newer and improved version of ourselves. But many of us, myself included, go about it in the wrong way. It’s not an overnight, add water and positive thoughts, instant happening. It’s a journey that is paved with carefully laid bricks on top of a solid foundation. And you have to be the mason for that journey, the bricklayer that works their magic to make those stones fall into place, the creator of your own path. It’s YOUR slate. They are YOUR dreams, YOUR aspirations, YOUR goals.
How do I do it then?
What can I do that is reasonable, attainable and sustainable with my clean slate, my empty book? How do I start? What do I do? Lucky for you, I have had some amazing inspiration this past year and where this isn’t the answer for everyone, it may help get you going in the right direction.
- Organize the chapters of your book. What I mean by that is look at the main parts of your life and how you want those areas to change. For me, it was health, family, finances, personal growth. I tried to think of the four most important parts of my life that not only needed change but that were the most personal to my heart. Because when you are invested emotionally you are typically much more willing to stay the course and put in the work necessary.
- Write it down. I don’t care if you buy a fancy leather journal, you buy a $0.27 notebook or use post it notes, you need to write this stuff down. Think it, write it, believe it. It’s like muscle memory - the more you are telling your brain something and repeating it, the more likely your brain (and hopefully YOU) are going to believe in it and invest in it.
- Brainstorm your what. What do you want to change about your health? What do you want to improve within your family unit? Being an ‘old lady’, I want to see what I can do in this next year with my body, with my strength, what greats I can accomplish. I want to find ways to make more memories with my children as they hit their high school and college years, help to build their confidence. I want to reduce my debt significantly and I want to find more joy in the day to day aspects of life. I want to find the positive more consistently. Whatever your ‘what’ may be, it needs to be identified and realized in order for you to go after it.
- Be honest about your why. Why is it important to you? Why does it matter? Your ‘why’ is going to Fuel Your Fire. It’s the coal in the stove, the match to the kindling, the reason that makes you choose the grind when you’d rather be home under the covers eating Doritos and watching the Real Housewives of Somewhere Other Than Here. Trust me. Been there done that. The ‘why’ needs to matter to your heart. A lot.
- Establishing your how. Now the worst part. How. This is the tell all, in your face, autobiography of failure and success, what not to do and how to get it right part of your story that will determine your great achievements and your epic disappointments and be the guiding force to getting you where you want to be. How are you going to lose weight? How are you going to take control of your finances? How are you going to prosper? How do you see more beauty? I found a gym that I love, that’s positive and uplifting and fills me up. That has served two fold in that it has helped with my fitness goals and it has helped me to have more gratitude, become a happier version of myself. This is a good time to bring in a ‘ghost writer’ someone that can help you to achieve, figure out your how. A trainer that will hold you accountable, a nutritionist, an accountant, an honest friend that will hold your feet to the fire. I don’t know - I got a puppy and told my husband it was my therapy dog. But having a how-to plan takes away the thinking end of it and just allows you to act.
- Do it. Live your life. Realize that with all of this there will be setbacks, disappointments. Yes - epic fails. But you cannot reach great success if at first you don’t fail. Because it is not the failures that help you succeed - it’s the act of choosing to continue after having failed. Choosing to continue, to move forward. And celebrate all the successes. And give credit where credit is due.
- Be prepared to use your eraser and re-wipe parts of your slate. Sometimes we have set the bar too high for ourselves and we need to erase our original thoughts and scale back. That’s all good - no big. By the same token, maybe you’ve achieved all that you set out to do by say January 15. Might’ve not set the bar high enough. Get yourself a big fat eraser, a bottle of white-out and have it on stand-by.
My own example.
I tried some other avenues this year and actually, with much whining and groaning, I pulled my 17 year old, 16 year old and 14 year old into the activity as well. I made a vision board and those lucky little devils got to do the same. It was a fun (insert laughing with tears emoji) Saturday afternoon/evening and Sunday morning (yes, that would be my 16 year old son that drug it out to the next day) task. I got small poster boards for each of us, 11 x 14, and told them here’s your clean slate. Blank looks from all three of them. Sigh. Okay. This is your 2017 clean slate. Envision what you want for yourself out of this next year, whom you want to become and put it on the board. Seeing is believing, believing is achieving. Ahhhhh - the proverbial light bulb went off. As it happened, I have one waiting on college acceptances so that was a no brainer for her as college emblems went on hers and one waiting on prep school acceptance so again - easy peasy. But then I made them take it a step further. What about sports? What about personally? Who are you? What do you like about you? What do you want to change? What kind of qualities do you admire and want to put out to others? I think my favorite saying on one of their boards was actually my 16 year old.
And I thought to myself - he got it…THEY got it. All three finished the task happy with their end result and, I’d like to think, optimistic about their plan for the upcoming year. Including them in my project also made me more accountable to my slate. My older two have theirs hanging by their beds at school while mine and my youngest are on the pantry door in the kitchen where we are faced with them every day.
I also coerced my other half into going to the gym with me. Mind you, he is NOT a cardio guy. He’ll lift all day long with the best of them, skip out on leg day whenever possible and treats cardio like that weird ex-girlfriend that shows up in the same aisle at the grocery store. But he’s going. What started as two days a week has now grown to four and he’s even asked me, “Are we going to the gym tonight? What time are our classes?” Get a partner in crime with similar goals. It’s a gut check and an accountability clause that is binding for you both.
All of this being said, there are some losses that we experience that there is no magic start over formula, no anecdote that heals the broken heart that only comes from losing a member of our family, a good friend, a treasured pet. And, in fact, the option of moving forward and ‘starting anew’ means moving forward and staring anew - without. I have no answer and oh how I wish I did…for your sake, for that of my own family that is approaching a new year, another first without a nephew, a grandson, a son, a much loved member of the community. I try to work hard at keeping my thoughts of my nephew happy, positive, full of gratitude for my haves with him. It does not in any way lessen the heartache of the loss but it does serve as a gentle reminder to do my best to live my days to their absolute fullest.
With all this talk of moving forward and wiping the slate clean and authoring your own story - I leave you with a thought. This does not mean we let go, blow off like dandelion fluff, the lessons of the past. It means that you recognize how far you’ve come and keep your gaze focused on where you are going. You honor the past mistakes and mishaps and tragedies by doing your very best to focus on this day, this page, this moment and living it. This year, 2017, is full of blank pages that are waiting to be filled with new beginnings, happy endings, moments of truth, realizations of failure, days that you made the choice to grind it out and live life to the fullest, times when you were your own worst enemy and instances where you were full of grace and kindness.
Make this year your best story yet - you’re worth it!
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.” Ooguay, Kung Fu Panda