Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fresh Start

While for some the subject of a fresh start is strictly seasonal and best reserved for springtime elucidation when the metaphors of rebirth lend themselves to enlargement upon the topic, it is my personal experience that the theme is relevant at almost any time of the year, though admittedly frequently more à propos rough water than melting snow. It is nevertheless in principle true that a fresh start can be as innocuous as a haircut or as forceful as a divorce. While I won’t of course suggest that there is otherwise no significant difference between the two, the disparity at least illustrates that the thrust of the particular fresh start depends very much upon where one is in life. Let’s face it there are times when all that is required is a bit of remedial work, general housekeeping so to speak, a brushing up; whereas at others a more strategic and even calamitous emendation is of necessity. In either case, the focus is not upon the disproportionate resolve but rather upon the relieving effect of the undertaking.
The fresh start, being an almost business-like response to stress, may be considered the preserve of a select few, though I doubt it is so. The fresh start is life’s little kick-start, available indiscriminately. One hears about A-type and B-type personalities, those who obsess or those who are apathetic respectively. I acknowledge that the frequency of fresh starts for the impatient A-type personality is likely greater than that of the disengaged B-type personality. It is rather like the difference between those who feel the need to clean their car mats after each outing, and those who clean the car perhaps once a month. Within those time lines there are unquestionably variations upon the levels of aggressiveness or patience. One person may view the quality of the fresh start highly critically and in detail, while the other may be far more relaxed and less intense. Yet even if one dismisses these characterizations as nothing more than pop psychology, the truth remains that a fresh start is not unknown to the majority of us whatever we may be.

It is at times difficult to establish whether the fresh start is the cause or the result of anticipated improvement. On the one hand, it is only a start, so technically nothing much has yet transpired. On the other hand, it is fresh, which implies there is at least some distance between what is now happening and what happened before. I think there has to be a hiatus between the now and then for the fresh start to be effective. Otherwise we progress along a continuum during which there is no interruption and therefore no sense of a break with the past. The break is critical, and it must be more than merely temporal. If for example we were only to provide a lull in what is our usual activity or proclivities, there is nothing refreshing about that at all unless it is the mere relief of stopping banging one’s head on the wall, not exactly a new beginning.

Inherent in a fresh start is the expectation of not only difference but also enhancement. Apart from its symptoms, the catalyst for such improving behaviour must customarily be more than merely cosmetic (see the haircut reference above). We have to be directing our minds in a new path with a view to accomplishment of something better. I rather suspect that most of us have a tendency to become bogged down in our daily preoccupations, sadly repeating one commitment or obligation after another, forever feeling the weight of what has become the dreary burden of life. This, when you think of it, is an unfortunate state of affairs and one which is readily dispelled when we take but a moment to contemplate how lucky most of us are in this country. Yet we despair and complain regularly. It is then that we need the impetus of a fresh start to revivify our soul and permit us to take an innovative course towards the broad and alluring horizon beyond. But an accounting of life is like any accounting, there is a profit and loss before getting to the bottom line. One has to be prepared to release at least some of what we may presently think of as an advantage and likewise endure at least some of what we may presently think of as a disadvantage. Invariably one element will outweigh another, thus tipping the balance of the scales hither or thither.

There are tales upon tales of people who have made fresh starts in their lives and been wretchedly disappointed. This speaks to two matters: first, that we do not expect disillusionment; second, that even the brief chimera of change may nonetheless be recuperative. I suppose it is much like taking a well-deserved holiday in that, while useful and even needed, it is only for so long that one can escape the more fundamental and lasting peculiarities of one’s existence. Eventually we have to go home. Certainly there may also be instances where one would prefer to disconnect entirely with one’s past, but even that for a multitude of reasons is not always possible. Finally the inexorable conundrum is that eventually the fresh start becomes old hat, ready ammunition for those who would assert that nothing but misery is eternal. Viewed in this distinctly unflattering light there is neither reason nor hope for a fresh start. This however overlooks the very real possibility that change is possible. The fact that the trail may become hackneyed is not to say the bearing has not altered. The compass of our growth is by degrees only.

While it is a small complement to say so, a fresh start is sometimes little more than a short-lived atonement for one’s guilt, much like New Year’s Resolutions, with the appearance of carapace but the flimsiness of a kite on a thread in a high Atlantic wind. Nonetheless even a race car engine requires some down time. There is after all hardly any point in useless bashing of what started out as a good thing, a fresh start. On the balance, I’ll take my chances.

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