I can’t believe 2017 is here! This time of year always makes me thoughtful about the year that has passed, and excited about the year that is about to begin. The words of one of my clients came back to me today… he told me that he’d decided that it was time to look forward and not backward in his life. This makes so much sense – after all, we can’t change what’s already happened, but if we put our energy into things we can control, we can make amazing things happen. Yet, so often, it’s not that easy. I hear people talk all the time about wanting to move forward, yet in reality, I see people struggling to do this. What is it that keeps drawing us back into the past when what we really want is a happy future?
I’ve felt this pull myself recently. This year, my youngest child turned 18 years old and moved out. My life has been incredibly rich because of these two amazing people that I got to be a mom to. I’m so proud of them, and excited for the lives they have ahead of them. But at the same time, it’s the end of an era. I’ve found myself looking through old home movies and picture albums, and it’s bittersweet. What a wonderful life I’ve had! It’s hard to believe that those childhood years are gone.
I used to get belonging from cuddling up and reading bedtime stories to my kids; from packing picnic lunches and spending a family day at the beach; from roasting marshmallows together over the fire while camping. I felt pride when my children showed kindness to others, when they achieved success in school, when they nailed their part in the musical production or stood on their head goaltending on the hockey ice. We joked with each other; we laughed together; we played together. We had amazing family vacations. It’s easy to let myself get overcome with sadness of those days that I will never have again.
As we travel through life, we find ways to meet our needs. And being a mom was very need-fulfilling. And I think that’s the draw to the past. It’s hard to find new ways to get your needs met – especially when the old ones were so darn effective.
But I’ve also learned that even when they aren’t that effective, it’s still hard to figure out a new way. The alcoholic knows that drinking is destroying their life, yet can’t find another way to relieve their stress. The abused woman knows that her life is in danger, but goes back to her partner because she is so incredibly lonely without him. It’s hard to move forward when you can’t even picture another way that you could find happiness.
So whether life has changed on you – with the death of a partner, the loss of a job, or your children growing up – or whether you want to change your life – going back to school, leaving an unhealthy relationship, learning to control your anger – the key to achieving your goals is in creating new pictures for yourself. You will need to let go of how you did things in the past, and find new ways to meet your needs.
So – my wish to you in 2017 – may you allow yourself to be creative, try new things, take chances, and create many new pictures for yourself that will bring much happiness and joy to your life! Happy New Year!