I put a lot of stock in artificial beginnings. For some reason, Monday mornings always seem like a chance to start fresh. So does the first of the month, the start of a new school term, a change of season, a birthday … it feels like our life clock re-sets itself at these times, and we get a chance to start over, somehow.
I ponder the paradox of this “new start” feeling. In a way, it’s a good thing; we should always feel that we have a chance to begin anew, to do better than yesterday, to chart a different course. On the other hand, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves when we say, “it’s the first day of the new term! Starting today, I am going to exercise every day. I’m going to watch what I eat, get all my work done, remember to floss, and lay out my clothes every night - without fail. From now on.”
Well, we all know how long THAT lasts. It doesn’t take much to derail the best-laid plans, and then we end up feeling guilty, inadequate. We’ve “failed” to live up to these overwhelming standards we set for ourselves, standards that were to begin at some arbitrary date and time, and continue from then into eternity.
Part of the problem is that we forget that life is a journey, not a race. A journey has a start and an end point, sure, but there are a lot of adventures along the way. There are side roads, lessons learned, disappointments and triumphs. We fall down, get up, start over, maybe backtrack and take a different fork in the road, the one we avoided before, but that appeals to us now.
A race is about speed, and crossing a finish line. There’s a “circumscribed” quality to a race that doesn’t work as a metaphor for daily life. I think this is where I go wrong sometimes in my thinking about beginnings - I feel like I’m poised at the starting gate, ready to rocket down the road toward my goal, when perhaps I should be anticipating more of a stroll, where I enjoy the scenery along the way.
There’s really nothing magical about the first of the month, a Monday morning, or the start of a new school term. I can redirect my attention right this moment, and take the first step down a new road. I can’t see the finish line from here, and maybe I’m not supposed to. Perhaps the magic of the journey is not thinking too much about the finish line at all.
PS - Thanks so much for the tweets and messages. You lift me up, more than you know.