Therapist's Note: One of the most common phrases I hear from clients is: "I am so mad at myself for not getting started on this earlier." It's an incredibly common phenomenon that people consider starting therapy for months or even years before they find their way through the door. If you're frustrated with yourself for letting your relationship reach this level of conflict or for allowing anxiety to have a voice in your life for this long or for putting off making a change you knew would improve your life: you're in good company. And while in theory in would have been nice to get started sooner, you're hard at work now--and that's what matters most.
Just one at first.
I'll get to it tomorrow.
I'll get to it next week.
Then dozens and dozens more.
Really, I will this time.
Don't worry, I'm not talking about you, I'm talking about me. You see, this year I put off weeding the flower beds in front of my home for...quite a bit longer than I wish I had done.
When I first started to notice the weeds, I wasn't worried about them. They were small in size, few in number. I would be able to get to it soon enough and take care of it then (so I thought). There was no urgency to make my garden a priority (just yet).
But then, as happens here in Indiana, the rains came down and the sun came up. And all the weeds started growing and multiplying as if they had nothing else in the world better to do with their time.
Now the weeds had my attention.
As I finally began uprooting the prickly weeds with my hands (and, occasionally, a shovel), I thought to myself how it might be wise to simply release my flower beds to the wild (surely, I was fighting a losing battle). I grumbled a bit at my month-ago-self. Why hadn't I started with weed number one?
But then, I remembered: the weeds were small then.
Other priorities had distracted me. Life had carried on, without pausing, while the eager weeds commenced their hostile take-over of my unsuspecting garden.
This same process plays out over and over again: in my own life, in my office, in the world. When discomfort first shows up, it tends to feel small, isolated, and quite manageable. We assume there will be time to take care of it later, when we aren't so busy. It usually takes that discomfort growing and multiplying for some time before it finally has our attention.
If you are in the process of change, you might at this moment be looking around at all the weedy discomfort that has commenced a hostile take-over in your life. You might be fantasizing about releasing your life back to the wild. You may be grumbling at one-month-ago-you, or one-year-ago-you, or ten-years-ago-you. Why didn't I start with discomfort number one?
So I want you to remember: the discomfort was small then. Other priorities distracted you. Life carried on, without pausing.
Yes, it would have been nice if you had been able to get started back then, but you just didn't get around to it. And that's okay. Because guess what?
The work can still be done.
It's going to feel overwhelming at first. It will be a challenge to know where to start. And it's going to feel frustratingly slow. You might work a whole day in the garden, step back, and wonder if you made any progress at all.
So, while you're at it, remember this, too: it took time for the weeds to grow, it's going to take time to pull them out.
Thank goodness that right now the ground is soft and warm from last night's summer rain. The sun is not yet overhead and a cool, refreshing breeze is visiting. In this perfect moment, with your hands (and, occasionally, a shovel) you can pull those pesky weeds up and away...
until all that remains in your garden is room for beautiful things to grow.
For further reflection: If you were to come up with the most forgiving explanation possible, what is one of the best reasons you had for waiting to start the process of change?
Here you will find metaphors, images, reflections, and inspiration on the change process. Psychotherapy intersects with creativity, nature, and spirituality on these pages. You can start anywhere you'd like. You'll find a note on my thoughts as a therapist as well as a prompt for your own reflection at the beginning and end of each entry.
I'm a licensed therapist in private practice in Indianapolis who provides counseling to individuals and couples, particularly around issues of anxiety, adjustment, and relationship wellness.