We go to school for 12 or more years.
It begins in September. Maybe late August.
We grow up. Get married. Have kids.
They go to school. That calendar runs our lives once more.
So is January, the official New Year, the only time we feel we can start fresh making a major life change?
What about good old September? When the days are beginning to shorten. The air gets crisper.
“When I get the kids back in school, I’m gonna...”
“This is the year I am going to start…”
I think it comes in a proud second. Runner-up for a time when resolutions for change come to the fore. As a therapist, I have evidence for that conclusion. Calls for new appointments rise dramatically. Statements like the above are frequent.
Some of it is pragmatic. More time. More energy available.
Heck. Christmas ornaments are being sold by big box stores in August. I guess New Year’s can be any old time we want it to be.
So here we have a second opportunity! A whole extra psychological boost for a new beginning!
One would think that with two culturally-supported starting gates, people would race to use all the tips, recommendations, self-help books, blogs and advice for change that are out there.
They would. If real change was easy.
Real no-holds barred kind of change.
“I’m judgmental of others”. “I say yes too much”. “I drink/eat/worry/complain/yell too much”. “I hate what my job is doing to me”.
What is so hard about change?
Familiar pain seems far less scary than the discomfort or pain you fear might happen if you try to change.
Frustration. Self-loathing. Even despair. If it’s familiar. If you have felt it a lot and know you can somehow get through it.
We tend to choose that.
To stay put.
I had a patient who was a candidate for gastric bypass surgery. That procedure requires that the patient get an “okay” from someone like me. That I believe the person is emotionally and psychologically ready for all the physical, sexual, spiritual and emotional changes that she or he will face after the surgery.
Talk about a tall order.
Not for me as much. For the patient. To sift through the “what if’s?” of normal life. Try to imagine how she will feel. How she will cope. Anger at how the world might treat her differently. Discomfort around sexual experiences where weight/self-image may have been an issue. Just how to deal with the vast amount of food at social gatherings. It goes on and on.
This one particular woman was doing a wonderful job. Then, one day, she started crying. “I don’t know what I am going to do at parties”. (She was very social). “All I have ever done is talk about food. I don’t know how I am going to talk to people”. She was realizing that she had coped with her social insecurity by a focus on food. What she was eating. How it was prepared. How did other people like it. How did they cook it?
No one really knew her very well. They just knew she loved to talk about food.
This was a huge stumbling block for her.
I occasionally see her now out in public. She had the surgery. She is chatting away with folks.
She learned new skills. Learned to let people in. It was hard work.
Confronting the fear of change.
It can be done.
You have to admit what living with that familiar pain is doing to you. And to others. You have to decide it’s not good enough.
It may be familiar. It’s just not acceptable anymore.
Your life – you – are too valuable to settle.
You may be afraid. Not know what’s on the other side.
But you are ready to find out.
Thanks for reading! I would love your comments below! Or you can privately message me at askdrmargaret@
Thursday 28th of August 2014
Thanks for the thought provoking post Dr M. My new year has always been the beginning of the academic year - and I imagine it might always be. I love the shift in the rhythm of the country. The slow relaxed beat of the summer, suddenly turns to a pulsing vibrant energized one. So much excitement, anticipation and planning of what's to come. This shift always includes comings and goings of people close to me - and this is change! As children leave or go to a different school I feel the old tug of leaving or being left. I am reminded of how important family is to me and I often vow to spend more time with my loved ones. January doesn't have this effect on me. Thank you for giving me the language to up my awareness of why I love this time of year so much - The New New Year! I love it!
Friday 29th of August 2014
Thanks so much Dina. You express the feelings of the time quite beautifully yourself. I agree that it makes us even more aware of how important others are to us. So Happy New New Year!
Wednesday 27th of August 2014
I've always felt September was the real start of the year. New clothes, new schedules, new pencils even!
Dr. Margaret Rutherford
Wednesday 27th of August 2014
Proof! That's one level of this post. The deeper level is the difficulty of real change. Thanks Anne for commenting. You are so right. We can get all into the "start" of the new academic year. That's all about kids. Real attention to yourself? Much harder to do.