Something has changed in your life – or maybe everything is different now. Your relationships, routine, thoughts, normal way of being and even how you saw the world has changed. How do you cope with a new life when all you want is your old life back? These ideas for starting over will help you see your new life differently, and perhaps even help you stop wanting to go back in time.
Earlier today, I wrote an article called When You’re Forced to Move to a New Home. Then I received an email from a friend who said she can’t move forward. Nothing will help her stop wanting her old life back, she said. She’ll never be happy without her ex and she’ll always want things the way they were. “Is it true?” I wondered. “Is it absolutely true that she will never be happy and will always want her old life back?”
If you’ve heard of Byron Katie and The Work, you’ll recognize those questions. Is it true that you want your old life back? Were you absolutely 100% happy with everything in your old life? A couple of simple little questions that can change everything – including how you cope with thoughts that you want your old life back. Maybe you’re like my friend; you’ve been telling yourself that you’ll never be happy the way things are now, in your new life. If so, you’re in luck! You have more power than you think. You can change how you feel about your new life by examining your thoughts.
Here’s a comment from a reader who wants her ex-husband back:
“I was married for 12 years and pregnant with my second child when my husband left me,” says Janine on When You Regret Getting Married. “He said he wanted out of his old life so he could start over. I divorced him and a year later met someone else. We are now married and I love him dearly. The problem is I long for my first husband and our marriage. I just want my old life back. I cry a lot and feel like I maybe got into my new relationship too quick. I don’t feel I will ever get over what happened to me.”
Is It True That You Want Your Old Life Back?
These tips will help you question and even let go of what you miss about your old life. Perhaps you’ll discover that there are parts of your old life that you miss and wish were alive again…and there are parts of your old life that you are glad are over! For this is the case with every season that ends. There were both good and bad aspects of that stage of life.
You may find yourself stuck in regret, sadness, pain and suffering if you focus on everything you miss about your old life. But, if you can sit in the question “Is it true that I want my old life back?” you may find freedom and peace in this new life you have.
1. Be specific about what you miss
Do you miss the people, places, or pets in your old life? Your lifestyle, routine, or schedule? Sometimes it helps to identify what specifically you’re missing. Instead of a vague “I miss my old life and want it back”, it can be helpful to think about exactly you miss. This might give you ideas for creating what you’re missing in your new life, which can help you heal and be happy.
For instance, I often think of my old life in Africa. I lived and taught there for three years, and after I moved home to Canada I felt hopeless and sad. I needed to learn how to hold on to hope when life seems hopeless – and I eventually did! But it was hard, and it took time.
I wish I could go back and do re-live my old life, but I can’t. So I started to think about what I missed about the past. I miss the feeling of adventure and excitement, of starting something new in my life. I was bored and uninspired after moving home. I wanted to feel alive again. Just realizing this helped me let go of my old life in Africa, and start moving forward into a fresh season.
What are you holding on to?
2. Reflect on the parts of your old life that that you don’t miss
Remember the good parts of your old life, the loving people and wonderful moments. But don’t forget that there were parts of your old life that were uncomfortable and even painful! Sometimes your old life was boring, frustrating, and even unhealthy. You have sad memories because you experienced difficulties in the past.
When you are honest about your past, can you say that it is absolutely true that you want your old life back? Often when we look back on our lives, we remember them as better and more fun than they actually were. We look back at the past with truth-altering rose-colored glasses instead of the truth. For instance, when I lived in Africa I often thought: Africa was so beautiful and interesting, and much more exciting than living in Canada! My old life was more fulfilling and fun than this one. Everything was better in my old life.
The truth is that I experienced bouts of homesickness, pain, boredom, loneliness and even depression when I lived in Africa. But now that I’m living my new life here in Vancouver, I forget the worst and idealize the best. This is normal; we often think the past is better than it really was. But the truth is, our old lives had problems and frustrations, too.
3. Learn how to love the life you have now
Can you, I wonder, weave the best, most cherished parts of your old life into your new life? This may feel impossible in some cases, such as if you have to learn to live without a husband or boyfriend you love. But you might be able to incorporate those feelings into your new life. For example, maybe you miss the feeling of security and companionship of being in a relationship. Maybe the time isn’t right for a new relationship, but you can choose to remember the past with joy and look toward the future with faith and hope.
When you miss your old life – and you can’t let go of the past – find ways to comfort yourself. What this means to you depends on you. Maybe you’ll identify the specific experiences, feelings or people you miss. You’ll find ways to remember or somehow bring them into your new life. Maybe you’ll even do The Work with someone like Byron Katie, and you’ll learn how to love the best parts of your new life.
Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life is a valuable book that can help you learn how to let go when you miss your old life. The Work is simply four questions that, when applied to a specific problem, enable you to see what is troubling you in an entirely different light.
Katie says, “It’s not the problem that causes our suffering; it’s our thinking about the problem.” Contrary to popular belief, trying to let go of a painful thought never works; instead, once we have done The Work, the thought lets go of us. At that point we can truly love what is, just as it is.
How are your thoughts about your old life causing you to suffer today? Your comments – big and little – are welcome below. Or, read How to Reinvent Yourself When You Have No Guarantees :-)