During the whole episode, I was not the only one to question whether it is even possible to change oneself. It’s an obvious and natural question to ask when we fall back so heavily into the habits we say we wish to change. The question feels loaded, as if there is only one conclusion: No, it isn’t possible. No wonder I had such a strong urge to walk away during those two weeks. But there is another perspective: This is a lifelong process, there is always work to be done, and (believe it or not) you are progressing every day. Seen in that way, it helps enormously to remember where you started.
Remember, too, that we are likely to be dealing with issues which other people don’t have. While I was being pulled into my emotions, my friend was looking on wondering how such a thing is possible in someone who says they are working so hard on themselves. Firstly, he is not facing the same hurdle, which compounds his disbelief. And secondly, whatever is seen on any given day does not always shed light on how far we have already come. Although I may feel disappointed each time I’m caught out, I have evidence of my progress. Even though there is still work to do, I am so much better than I used to be. Furthermore, I know that each stumble brings with it the opportunity to stand up again and inch my way forward. During the difficult times, that’s all I can do.
Emotions are only one thread of my progress. I have also done some excellent work on my physical well-being. Previously, over a period of 20 years, I had seven operations on my knee, back and hip – an average of one surgery every three years. It has been nearly 12 years since the last one. That’s huge progress for me. Furthermore, as various previous posts have detailed, I have established an effective habit of taking care of my physical body, which reinforces itself in the most positive way: the more I take care of myself, the easier it is to take care of myself.
Everyone has a unique starting point and a variety of issues to tackle. To paraphrase my own teacher: Every day I am not in hospital recovering from another operation is a victory. Each time you stumble, give yourself a break. Relax and remind yourself where it all began. See the progress you’ve made, and know that there is always work to be done. Also, be vigilant – it’s easy to get cocky and undo all your work in an instant, which would be a shame because you have already come so far.