This was originally posted on Dec. 19, 2011. It deserves another read.
The farther you move through life, the more tempting it is to want to have everything under control. Bad plan. That strategy is a nice straight road to boredom. Being a beginner until the day you die is an important piece of creating a good life. And beginnings are not controlled situations. Beginnings are messy.
When you move, things are total chaos for a while. When you start an art project, everything you might need gets hauled out of drawers and closets. To renovate your yard, you usually create a mud bog at some point in the process.
To make something better, most often, you need to make a total mess of what you already have.
And that’s okay.
In fact, it may be an essential piece of appreciating what you have once you’ve completed the change. My mom’s yearly version of this process was the family camping trip. Dad was great about getting everything needed by a family of nine packed in–and on–the car, getting us there, getting the tent set up, etc. He was really good at making order of the inevitable chaos.
Mom, however, was better at appreciating the chaos. “Going camping” was our vacation and that meant new adventures for us kids and the chance to break from the routine for our parents. But “going camping” also made us all appreciate that routine when we got home and had everything put away.
The disruption and confusion of going in a new direction can be unnerving–and almost always is when you change anything significant. But that doesn’t mean you don’t do it. It’s just wise to realize what you’re getting into.
Beginnings involve going in the wrong direction. When you start something new, even if you have a full set of instructions (which most things in life don’t have), you make mistakes because the whole idea is new and a challenge to grasp. Mistakes are every bit as much a part of getting things to go the way you want as the things you get right the first time. Wrong turns help define the context of what you’re doing and help make it work well. They’re most valuable if you use them–figure out what they’ve taught you and then move past them. But if you can’t get that far about what went wrong, at least relax about the fact that they happen. When you start something new, there are going to be mistakes. Sometimes lots of them.
Beginnings usually involve a few restarts. Thinking that it’s going to be smooth sailing from the get-go just invites frustration. Redirects are inevitable. Sometimes, you don’t even know where you are trying to go when you start out. And when you need to change course, you often need to just plain stop before you do so. So if the project doesn’t keep going at a steady pace, don’t be surprised. And for heaven’s sake don’t get all torqued about it. Starting something new takes courage. Finishing something new takes patience and tolerance–for clutter, confusion, and starting again….and sometimes again and again.
Beginnings often don’t look like beginnings. Starting in a new direction is often disguised as something old ending. This probably makes the messiness of a beginning even harder to endure. When what you had worked for you and was not something you wanted to change, it’s very hard to get on with the messiness of starting over. That old reliable version of life was…well…yours, whether it was with a mate who died–or left, a job you lost, or health you took for granted. Pining for what was makes getting on with what’s next a lot more difficult. Letting go of what you don’t have any more and stepping into the chaos of a new start is the only way to get on with your life.
Know that the disruption is essential and temporary. It’s easy to begin to feel like the turmoil is never going to go away, but that’s not what’s going on. Psychologically, being able to predict what’s going to happen is as calming as being able to control it. Reminding yourself that there’s an end point to the chaos gives you that predictability.
Beginnings are essential. Beginnings can be intimidating simply because of the disorder and confusion they engender. Begin anyway. Having a good life is not a matter of having everything under control. You need to keep your world expanding and to do that, you have to begin something new. Again and again and again.