I’m appreciating used things. I got a great gas barbecue on Freecycle; a practically new John Deere lawnmower for $50; a beautiful Le Creuset cast iron shelf from a friend’s basement, a lovely leather purse from the thrift shop. They feel like blessings. I get all the joy of something new plus an extra kick of getting it for nothing or practically so.
I’m typing this on a computer I bought used that’s sitting on a desk I got at a yard sale. Come to think of it, I also inherited this chair from some previous office and I’m drinking from a water bottle I’ve refilled a bunch of times.
Brand new, pristine, still in the wrapper has its appeal too of course. But throwing away perfectly good stuff bugs me. I wish it were easier to get something to a good home during that whirlwind of purging that comes upon us. I use all my energy cleaning out the junk room and have nothing left for separating the things for Goodwill from the load for the dump. At that point I want the detritus gone. Now.
I see that desire to be rid of the unwanted in my clients, and in myself. We want to be different, better, changed. And we want it now. A new job, a new body, a new relationship, a new way of living. I want what I don’t have, and what I have I don’t want.
There is no shortage of experts to tell us how to change. As a coach, I probably fall into that category. But I don’t have a whizbang new approach—the Seven Steps to a whole new you. I believe you’re pretty darned fabulous exactly as you are and that all meaningful transformation starts with acceptance.
Accept yourself. Recycled advice? Yes. When you’re dissatisfied and stuck it can sound pretty useless. “Get me out of here!” You’d rather be any place else. But here and now is all there is. Loving and forgiving must be the first step.
Take a deep breath and bear with me for a moment here. You’re changing a state of mind.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Describe your current reality.
What’s really true? What’s not working? What is? What part do you want to make sure you keep in the future? What assumptions have you made that aren’t checked out? Whose definition of value are you using? What are the immediate challenges and which are more long-term?
2. How is this working on your behalf?
Suspend disbelief for a moment and pretend that the aspect you want to change is actually serving you in some twisted way. For example, the asshole boss is creating the impetus for you to leave a job you should have left years ago; the health emergency is a wake-up call; the break up is a clear decision when you were ambivalent. Put aside the unpleasant feelings for a moment and imagine a new way of looking at the same set of circumstances—a way in which you benefit instead of being a victim.
This can be a tough one, but it’s the most powerful. I’ve found that if I start where I am (unpleasant state—hurt, angry, etc) I can take baby steps that get me to real acceptance. Here’s a possible progression:
I forgive you for being a stupid jerk.
I forgive you for saying such an insensitive thing.
I forgive you for hurting my feelings.
I forgive you for not realizing that I was expecting you.
I forgive you for not reading my mind.
I forgive myself for expecting you to.
I forgive myself for overreacting.
I forgive myself for not saying what I want.
I forgive myself for not seeing my responsibility here.
It’s the acceptance, the ownership that gives you permission to let it go—whether we’re talking about anger or extra weight or a snakeskin vinyl raincoat. It’s not a question of judgment—keep the good and get rid of the bad. We’re a spectrum—a combination of choices that sometimes looks like a masterpiece and sometimes like mud. It’s not that red has no value. It just may not belong in your picture right now.
Maybe someone else can use it. That’s why we have consignment stores and eBay.