“This is life. Things get taken away. You will learn to start over many times — or you will be useless.” ~ Mitch Albom
When life knocks you down, it’s virtually impossible to start over. Instead, we want to nurse our wounds and cry in our misery. We want to quit our jobs, travel the world, find a Brazilian lover, start a blog…
While I may or may not have done some of these things from the book Eat, Pray, Love, my divorce was rock bottom in my life. Life had looked so promising until it all came to a crashing halt.
The past few years have forced me to rebuild myself from the rubble of heartbreak and loss.
Here are 9 ways to let go of your past and start over if you’ve fallen off the known path:
It’s easy to nurse our pain and hold onto it for much longer than necessary. I held onto my pain over my ex-wife for years. The pain was known and familiar. Being alone wasn’t known and familiar, but ultimately I realized that to move on, I had to let go of the pain.
Feel the intense feelings that overcome your body and spirit. Cry as much as you need to. Feel as much as you want to and experience the intensity of the pain. Talk to a counselor or friend who can help you unload the feelings of guilt, shame, and anger. Write down the heavy feelings so they are off your chest.
Emotional pain is a like a heavy anchor that weighs you down. You can gain your momentum again only when you lessen its grip on you.
2. Let go of anger.
While almost all of our emotions are manageable, the toughest one to deal with is anger. You’ll want to blame and hold responsible all the people who contributed to your suffering. You will walk around with unresolved pain and a burning sensation of injustice.
What they say is true: you can’t move on until you forgive. The burning anger in your heart burns only within; it doesn’t affect the people you’re angry at. So, being angry at others only makes you more unhappy and miserable. Don’t let the people who contributed to your downfall continue hurting you. Forgive them no matter how terrible the trespass. Breathe a sigh of relief and welcome in peace again.
In a breakup or divorce, you want to hold everyone responsible and accountable. There are a lot of grudges to go around; there are many people who slighted you and many who let you down. You’ll want to blame your ex, your in-laws, your friends, your mutual pet who now lives with her.
Step away from grudges and, for the sake of your life, seek to understand. Try to see each person who wronged you in the best light. Instead of silent wishes that karma run over each perpetrator, whisper silent prayers of forgiveness.
Say, “I forgive you, I let go of you from my life and I wish you well. I thank you for the lessons you have taught me and for contributing to my growth.”
4. Let go of what was.
Like TiVo or the replay button on the television, you can continue watching the past over and over. It’s a lovely exercise that makes you feel warm and fuzzy until you realize you’ve wasted years of your life holding onto the past.
You can stop living in your past by becoming aware of every time you daydream about happier days gone by. Remember – it likely wasn’t that happy. We have a tendency to hold onto the good stuff and let go of the hellish memories.
Catch yourself each time you do it and bring yourself back to what you were doing today. Immerse yourself in whatever activity you’re engaged in right now. Practice mindfulness so you’re no longer living in a time that doesn’t exist anymore.
Expectations are the silent killers of happiness and life. Don’t you wish that everything worked out exactly as you imagined it? Don’t you miss all the wonderful possibilities of what could have been?
You can spend a lifetime thinking about how good things could have been and how they didn’t turn out as you’d hoped. Then again, you could wake up 15 years later and realize that you should have ditched the expectations and practiced acceptance.
Instead of feeling sad about how things didn’t work out, practice being grateful for how things did turn out.
Don’t play society’s games and don’t let outside forces measure you. True happiness comes from within: from your being able to accept life’s twists and turns.
6. Let go of comparisons.
Often, it’s not life’s circumstances that make us feel bad, but our own life in comparison to those of everyone else we know.
We are a culture that uses our friends and neighbors as a measuring rod for our own personal success. Personal success doesn’t mean doing what others are doing; it’s figuring out what you want and doing that.
Don’t measure success by where you need to be at this point in your life; measure success by being able to do what you want and living a life that’s true to you. Don’t let society be the measuring rod; go within and pursue your heart’s desires.
7. Let go of attacking yourself.
It’s one of the easiest things to do when our life falls apart – we want to blame, scold and attack ourselves. Our families did this to us when we were children, and now we do it to ourselves naturally.
You attacking you is not going to help the situation. Instead of tearing yourself down and blaming yourself, give yourself some credit for knowing how to get out of the situation you’re in. You have the creativity, resilience, and ability to move forward. You’ve done this before.
Remind yourself that you’re worthy, able and smart enough to get through this situation. You may have made mistakes that landed you here, but you’re smart enough to learn from those mistakes and not repeat them in the future.
8. Let go of hopelessness.
You can view the world through two pairs of lenses. One pair of lenses – the one we pick up most often – is gloom and doom. Everything is falling apart and your life is over. The other pair of lenses is the sense that this setback – even though it’s a serious one – is simply preparing you for something greater.
In this setback is something good. In this setback are a message and a lesson for you to learn. This setback is going to turn your life’s low point into your high point.
You’re not going to fall further (as you’re fearing); instead, you’re going to rise higher. You know what they say – what goes down must come up!
Instead of curling up in our beds or crawling into the wall and disappearing from the world, why not take some time to rest, reflect and refresh?
You can overcome feelings of helplessness by checking in with yourself and thinking about the life you want. You can rebuild from the ground up and create the life you have been craving.
When life falls apart, know that you have the creativity and freedom to design a more intentional life. Take the small steps. Make the internal shifts and work toward a new and improved life for yourself.