How to know when it’s over
How do you know when one phase of your life is truly over and that it’s time to let it go?
Maybe there’s a relationship or friendship that you’re still holding onto and investing your energy into, all in the hope that it will be as it was before, or more likely, as you imagine it could be. Can you really just leave this relationship behind you?
Perhaps there’s a career that you’ve invested in heavily. You spent thousands of dollars acquiring the right credentials. You’ve also spent so much time networking with those in the industry, not to mention the time spent thinking, creating and worrying about your work. Can you simply pick up and leave, changing your professional direction entirely, and almost overnight?
How many of you are stuck in a belief system that no longer enriches your life, and hasn’t done for many years, out of a feeling of cultural and familial obligation? Could you really openly explore your individual spirituality, free to be who you are?
I’m not very good at admitting when something is over. I always feel that there’s more that I could do, more effort I could apply, a different angle I could take, to keep the situation going.
A long term relationship of mine lasted well beyond it’s healthy lifespan. If I’m honest with myself, in hindsight it shouldn’t have lasted more than a couple of weeks, and instead lasted six years. But you see, I had decided that this is the relationship I wanted, and I was going to make it work. I was going to work on me and on the relationship and we were going to grow and change together.
Of course there was growth and change, and all of it coming from me. I outgrew who I had been, and I rapidly outgrew this relationship, but I tried to stunt my own growth to make sure that the relationship would work. I was keeping a relationship that was already dead on life support. Why? Because it was what I knew. Although I was dreadfully unhappy, this relationship was far less scary than the unknown and the prospect of being out in the world all alone. I felt I could really find some semblance of happiness amongst all that disfunction if I tried hard enough.
The funny thing was, that by the time I was courageous enough to admit that it was over, it was already so finished that it dissolved away easily. Once I let it go my life changed remarkably quickly. So quickly that I met my husband only a few short months later.
Clinging to situations that are over, has cropped up in my life to greater and lesser extents quite frequently over the past fifteen years. As far as relationships are concerned, I am better able to acknowledge when they are over and then move on. Now though, I find myself in the situation where the career I thought I would have, the life I thought I would live, is now over and I’m apprehensive to let it go.
Thinking back I realise that 2008 was the high point of teaching for me, and I should have walked away then, when it was at its peak. But I didn’t want to give up, I had invested so much energy into becoming a great teacher. I also seemed to be really good at it. How can you just walk away from something you are really good at? So I decided it must be the school, or the parents, or the students, or the teachers. So I tried another school. It was different for awhile, but the same old feelings emerged. I thought maybe I should try for a promotion, or a different role within education. This just made me feel worse. And so it continued until now, where I’ve decided to try working part time, and even that is more teaching than I want to be involved with right now. It’s time for me to let go, and move on, embracing a new path.
So how will you know when it’s over?
When it becomes too hard.
Sure, life is meant to have its challenges, but it’s not meant to be so difficult that there are far more challenges than there are moments of enjoyment and pleasure. You are not supposed to wake up each morning, wondering how you will need to approach your particular situation in order to get through the day. When your relationship, job or other scenario begin to feel like pure drudgery, with only momentary glimpses of hope and joy, it’s over. It is time to let go.
When your thoughts and imagination are envisioning a different life, yet you persevere with your old life.
The way we want our lives to be is not found in how our lives actually are, but instead can be found in our thoughts and imagination. This is where we first start to envision and create new ways to live our lives. At first these thoughts are occasional and often vary, until we strike on the idea that really resonates with our emotions. When these thoughts become frequent, yet your outside world remains the same, this is the moment to let go.
It’s like when a child is losing a tooth. The child is so certain that this tooth will fall out at any time that they have already spent the tooth fairy’s money in their mind! Yet the tooth is still attached by one small thread of flesh. When your mind has moved on to the next phase, your old life is actually only hanging on by a thread and it’s time to let go.
When you realise it truly is you, not them.
I love the episode of Seinfeld where George has a girlfriend who breaks up with him, the reason being that it’s her and not him. He goes on to say “I invented the whole ‘it’s not you it’s me’ routine! If it’s anybody, it’s me!” In reality though, we go around thinking that the problem is with others; other people, other workplaces or other scenarios. Oneday you’ll come to realise it’s you who doesn’t suit the relationship or situation, not the other person or scenario that doesn’t suit you. You’ve grown, you’re different and it’s time for you to move on.
When the unhappiness of the situation becomes unbearable, and permeates every area of your life.
When there are difficulties in your life, you can usually compartmentalise them so that the unhappiness they cause doesn’t leak into the other areas of your life. Soon enough though the unpleasantness builds and is always with you in your thoughts. You carry your dissatisfaction with you into other pursuits and into other relationships. When it becomes more than a small issue, more than something that is a passing phase, then it is time to leave it behind you.
When you finally see that you’re keeping the situation on life support, only to avoid your own fear.
Once you acknowledge that it is fear of the unknown that keeps you clinging to your soul-destroying situation, you are at the beginning of the end. Understanding that you are scared is a significant moment of recognition, and at first will leave you feeling slightly paralysed. Soon enough you will see that this fear is irrational and is serving as an impetus to action. The moment you “feel the fear and do it anyway”, is the moment you transition into a new life that will amaze you.