Sometimes there’s no such thing as finished.
One of the hardest parts of an ending—whether it’s the end of a relationship, a job (or a whole career), or your residence in a home or city—is the knowledge and acceptance that this will have been it.
When you’re going—really going—a particular insidious voice can show up in your head. I call this voice the Never-Dids.
“But I never finished…”
“But I/we never got to…”
“But I haven’t gotten this perfect yet.”
When there’s always a tomorrow in that place, job, or relationship, there’s always a possibility to do better, to complete more, to enjoy or experience more, to perfect and hone.
When tomorrow will find you somewhere new…that’s when the Never-Dids come out to play.
When I was 27, I had a tonsillectomy. After years of having horrible throat pain and other complications every time I had so much as a flicker of a cold, I finally saw an ENT who suggested I get the nasty things taken out.
He warned me that as procedures go, an adult tonsillectomy is “not pleasant.”
I nearly screamed, “I don’t care! Take them OUT!!!!!”
I was ready to put the years of tonsil torture behind me.
As it happened, in the couple of weeks before my tonsillectomy, I had fallen—hard—for someone I’d started to date.
This was one of those horse-before-the-cart deals; strongly encouraged by the signals I was seeing—and, yeah, okay, probably by some signals I wanted to see—I let myself fall way too fast.
How do you turn want to into did?
I used to think that people who created certain things—who built businesses, or were on the radio, or wrote books—were fundamentally a certain kind of person.
A kind I certainly wasn’t.
As if there was some sort of predestination involved—and I was not one of those people.
Because who the hell am I to think I could do that?
I always felt I had something inside me to share on a bigger scale, but it seemed downright silly or deluded to even share that feeling with myself—let alone anyone else!
Everyone and their mother thinks they have a book in them, I thought.
But one day, I was in the shower, listening to an interview of a researcher/writer on NPR, feeling a slight twinge of envy, and suddenly, I had a Duh Moment (this is my term for an Aha Moment that seems obvious to the point of idiotic in retrospect):
Is your “Someday” list weighing you down?
By the time you’re in your thirties, you’ve been carrying around a lot of “shoulds” and “somedays” and “by the times” and “when I’ms” for a long time.
There are the promises you made to yourself as a little kid—“When I grow up, I’m going to_______!”
There are the dreams you grew in high school and college.
There are the frameworks you got from your family model of what you should or would emulate someday.
It’s important to hold onto to your dreams, and it’s never too late to go after the ones that are really important to you. When you’ve lost your way, tapping back into your earliest childhood dreams can be profoundly helpful in finding clarity.
But sometimes you outgrow a dream without realizing it, and instead of being fueled by the inspiring energy of the dream, what you carry around with you is the “should have” and the “have to” and the “still haven’t gotten around to” roughage of having this unaccomplished item on your bucket list.
As these bucket list items keep getting added over time, the accumulation can really start to weigh on you.
Monday and George are on the case.
When you’re in the midst of a career change, sometimes it can feel like you have no idea who you are or where you’re going.
It’s disconcerting to look ahead and see a big question mark.
We often feel grounded by what we do for a living—we hook our identity onto it.
This is encouraged by a culture where the question “So, what do you do?” is often the first point of connection after “What is your name?” when meeting someone new.
Similarly, your whole internal identity can feel called into question when you’ve just ended—or are considering ending—a long-term relationship.
Even if you consider yourself a pretty independent lady or fella, putting a big question mark next to a human constant in your life can start the identity wheel spinning.
When you’re feeling confused, unrooted, and uncertain due to a huge looming question mark, here’s a little game you can play, inspired by one of my favorite TV programs growing up.
When you look at this picture, what do you see?
It’s Saturday night, and you’re all alone, sitting on the couch, drinking wine by yourself and watching a sappy movie. The phone isn’t ringing. You have no one to talk to, nowhere to go, and nothing to do.
What just came up for you?
If you are like some of my clients, the singles who long to be grounded in partnership and family, it’s likely you thought, “How depressing.”
And then, maybe, “FML.”
If you are like some of my other clients, such as the mother who can hardly believe that there was a time she had a moment to herself, but knows in hazy half-memory that she did once, and fears that she never will again, it’s likely you got a dreamy look on your face and thought, “How divine.”
And then, maybe, “FML.”
The same scenario; radically different interpretations and experiences.
Perspective is everything.
How can you create perspective for yourself, when you so powerfully long for some part of your life to be different?
Today I have a great exercise for you that will help you do just that.
The choice may have been mistaken…the choosing was not!
Moving on can be really scary.
When I was in the process of making my own huge career leap, a song I hadn’t thought about in years suddenly came into my head one morning (a Sunday morning, as it happened!).
No coincidence—this was right at the no-turning-back-now time when I needed to hear the message of the song most.
The song was “Move On,” from Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sunday in the Park with George.
In the song, George, an artist, is totally stuck because he feels he has nothing new to add to the world; nothing to say that hasn’t been said.
Then Dot, his ex, shows up to talk to him.
Well, sort of.
It’s complicated and involves what I’ll describe for brevity’s sake as time travel. I won’t go into a thorough explanation of all the plot points that lead to this song—that’s all you really need to know.
Through this song, Dot gives George a powerful pep-talk-kick-in-the-ass combo based on her own bold leap into change.
Even if you’re not into musicals, “Move On” is a perfect career change anthem.
Wish you’d boarded that train sooner?
When I work with people who have decided to make a major change in their relationships or careers, one of the most common themes I hear is regret about having waited until now:
“I knew things weren’t going well. Why didn’t I end it sooner?”
“I wasted so much time.”
“I could have been over this and moving on a year ago, but instead I stayed stuck.”
“All those years and nothing to show for it.”
“I lost x months/years of my life.”
“I knew in my heart it was time to go…but I stayed for years.”
“All my friends told me I should leave, but I didn’t listen.”
“If only…I just wish…Why couldn’t I have…”
Today I want to teach you a 6-step process that will help you banish the guilt and self-punishing and help you turn that “doomed” relationship or “dead-end” job into one of the best things that ever happened to you—even after the fact.