Dear Friend Who Is Starting Over

Damn, sister. I’m so sorry. I mean, this is going to be hard. Really difficult. You are going to learn what it feels like to say goodbye to something that for the last two, five, 10, 20, 65 years you called a part of your life. Like waking up in the morning and seeing his toothbrush on the bathroom counter. Or coming home after work and taking that first drink. Or sitting down at that same desk, in that same office, with those same people.

Starting over means saying goodbye to what’s comfortable, right? It means that everything you knew up until this point has been cracked open. You will start to wonder: Was that even my life? Because all of a sudden you are standing on the other side and it looks foreign. Surely, that was not yours. This one shift, this one change makes everything feel like it doesn’t fit anymore, like the person in the mirror is someone else.

You will think over and over again, I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. You will want to walk into that liquor store, or eat that entire bag of cookies, or pick up that phone and call him. Forget this change. You cannot do it. You need to be drunk or high on sugar or wrapped in his arms in order for this life to make sense. It would be so much easier to just stay there, on the other side, back with the yesterday “you.”

Because who the fuck makes the hard decision?

Making the hard decision means there will be an uprooting. It means there will be uncertainty and fear. Oh, man, there will be a ton of fear. Making the tough decision means you might lose friends or learn what it feels like to split your life into two or spend a lot of time feeling very, very alone. And who would choose that?

I will tell you who –– you. You who has ignored time and time again that feeling in your gut that says his eyes are telling you a different story than the words that are coming out of his mouth. You who knows that if you take one more drink (and then another … and then another), then you will spend another morning lying in bed wondering what the hell you said and did last night. Last night when the alcohol running through your veins called all of the shots.

You who is terrified to take the leap toward the work you have always wanted to do. You who lets fear override passion and fulfillment and joy. You who feels an ache in your heart each night when your head hits the pillow and you know another day has gone by where you did not do the thing you love most.

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You who wants to get healthy. You who wants to seek help. You who does not want to wake up and once again ignore the call for change.

Change. Ouch. It sucks so bad at first. Even when you are making a change for the better. And you won’t even need people to say you aren't any good or tell you to give up (although they might). You will be doing enough of that all of your own. Why the hell did you decide to change? You had mastered the art of not changing. You could have just stuck with that. At least you recognized that girl, banged up and broken as you were.

But, while no change means you won’t have to do the work of changing (and I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty hard), it also means this: You won’t ever know what the changed you looks like. And, oh my goodness, what if she’s fantastic?

Do me a favor: Pretend you are looking in a mirror. Right now. (Seriously.) Mmmmk, do you see the changed you? She’s still you, right? Your heart is still in the same place and you certainly look like a woman who knows a thing or two. But what about your face? Are your eyes all sparkly and dance-y because you are now doing the thing you love? Does your skin look clearer, cheeks rosier because you are no longer pumping your body full of crap (e.g. booze, drugs, mountains of sugar)? Do the crinkles around your eyes look all good and crinkly because the love you have found makes you smile so big that you're just a beautiful, crinkly mess?

Baby doll, that’s changed you. Isn’t she amazing? Changed you is exactly who will be waiting for you once you swim through all of this pain and find your way to the other side. She will be surer and happier and stronger because you will have done the work of starting over.

Here’s what I will tell you right now, at this very moment: Take it one moment at a time. That could mean one day, one hour or one minute to you. Just focus on one moment at a time, at the first task that is immediately in front of you and do that. When that is over, do the next thing. And then the next thing, and then the next thing. When I was first learning how to run, my mom –– who had been a long distance runner since college –– would tell me to “just run to the next mailbox.” What she meant was that each time I wanted to stop I should try instead to run a little bit farther, to the next mailbox or telephone pole or neatly trimmed hedge. I did that and what inevitably happened was this –– I didn't stop. I ran the whole way home, up every hill, through every side cramp, to each mailbox. It was really freaking hard and on most days I had no idea why the hell I was out there in the first place. But what I discovered was a “me” that I never would have known had I never chosen to begin.

“Run to the next mailbox.” I think of that each time I start over which, these days, seems much more difficult than the task of lacing up my shoes almost 20 years ago. That’s because embarking on a new journey or saying goodbye to a life you once knew –– it’s never going to feel easy or fearless. And for that I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what I know right now on this very day hurts your heart, or makes everything deep in your belly feel wobbly and scary.

But as for the changed you you’re about to reveal?

I can’t wait to meet her.