A Fresh Start

january- a clean slate

Out with the old and in with the new – I love my January rituals of purging and cleansing and clearing out what doesn’t serve me any more.

Out goes the eggnog, the peppermint bark the chocolate santas; packed away are the fragrant green boughs and jingle bells and mistletoe…

Ok I admit it, I’m a bit somber as I stow away the wine bottles and crème de liqueur.

But I don’t stop at the kitchen. I clean out all my sock drawers and make a big pile of clothes for Goodwill; I even pack up a few great reads to send to my mom.

And when I’m finished there is a sense of calm and dare I say it – smugness!

But that doesn’t last long. As soon as my outside is cleaned up and put away, I turn my gaze inward and realize there’s some junk in there too….

Here’s some old resentment, a couple of grievances, maybe a few lingering blames or “it’s not fair” left over from the  past year as well – and I begin to take stock and realize if I want a truly fresh start, I’ve got some work still left to do.

HOW DO WE GET RID OF THOSE NASTIES LYING IN WAIT TO RUIN THE START OF A GOOD YEAR?

Resentment is like the rust that blocks the pipes from delivering clean fresh water. It’s the sludge in the bottom of the coffee cup that makes it taste so bitter, the block that keeps us from moving forward with joy and gratitude, and authentic connection. It keeps us fearful and mistrusting and disconnected….

And underneath resentment lies hurt and sadness, but we don’t always get down to those because we let resentment and judgment and blame sit on top, keeping us from really getting down to the difficult stuff that lies deep within us

So how to begin? It’s certainly easier with the socks, and treats and holiday decorations….

According to Brené Brown in her book Rising Strong – it starts with rumbling with our feelings.

You must explore what lies underneath the resentment. Is it fear of trusting again? Is it sadness or grief that someone we loved disappointed us? Is it hurt that we weren’t understood or seen for who we really are? The answers to these questions allow us to move forward – once we can diagnose the pain, we can begin to heal the hurt.

The next step is to take a look at  the stories we are telling ourselves about the situation; what are we making up about the people involved?

Maybe we’re saying that they really don’t care about us, that they are broken and spiteful and that they meant to do us harm?

When we do a reality check about those stories, we can see how much is made up and how much is based on truth. Often when people hurt us they didn’t intend to do it. Perhaps they were busy with their own agenda and “missed” ours, or they were too caught up trying to make things OK for themselves and missed the chance to see things from our perspective. Mind you, I’m not saying that these realizations or observations take away the IMPACT of the hurt, but it provides us with a context to begin the process of forgiving and letting go.

ASK YOURSELF THIS: IF I WERE TO GIVE THEM THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT AND IMAGINE THAT THEY WERE DOING THE BEST THEY COULD AT THE TIME, HOW WOULD IT CHANGE HOW I FEEL?

I know that’s a big ask, and not an easy thing to accomplish, but I have found it to be transformational in my own “letting go” process.

Finally, we need to  take a look at what our part in the struggle was. That doesn’t mean taking the blame or beating ourselves up, it just means shifting ourselves out of the victim mode and into the driver’s seat to see what we can learn to move forward. It’s about learning the lesson in every struggle, and figuring out what boundaries need to be in place and what we can do differently next time.

Examining what happened in each situation enables us to choose a new response next time. It allows us to let go of the past with new resolve and a new vision for the future. And once it’s done – we are left with a clean slate to begin the new year!

Here’s to Fresh Starts and Clean Beginnings!

Meet Cynthia Benge

A therapist for over 20 years, I guide people from their own “stuck” places to a life full of adventure, meaning and satisfying relationships.

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