A fresh start

I just finished reading “Six Years,” a very readable little mystery written by Harlan Coben. The plot is entangled around a nonprofit organization called “Fresh Start.” This group has all of the resources needed to give anyone they select as worthy of a big-time fresh start in life, usually involving identity changes and what you might call disappearing acts.

I can’t imagine that much drama for myself. Still when the days are leading up to a new year, I do like to embrace the Japanese tradition of Osoji. The Japanese who observe this tradition enter a literal and metaphoric cleaning of the physical and literal stains of the past year. It is a time to sweep away the old systems, the old clutter and the old files as part of a deep cleaning of offices, schools, shops and houses. The Japanese put aside old resentments along with the old newspapers and chipped china.

Most of us get into this kind of a purge only when we are moving our offices or homes. Many of us never focus on cleaning up the emotional detritus – the old hurts, fears, resentments, grudges, guilty feelings and worries that have way outlived any usefulness in our lives.

When it comes to cleaning the physical spaces at work and home, it’s usually fun to do it together. At the office you can declare a day — or more — set aside for Osoji. Everyone can wear comfortable clothes, bring snacks if they want, roll up their sleeves and dig into their own office space as well as volunteering to clean a part of the common area. Music helps. So does a relaxing time when the cleansing is done, a gathering around wine and cheese or pizza to celebrate the fresh look of the workspace.

It can be fun to work on Osoji together at home as well. I never was successful in convincing my kids of that once they were past the third grade. With reluctance and rolled eyes though, they would participate and usually got into the spirit of the thing eventually.

Those emotional stains though, take even a more rigorous approach. Of course many people are helped by psychotherapy when they want to scrub away negative emotions that have become obstacles in living a robust life.

When you want to unpack your “baggage,” whether it is interfering with your work life, home life or both there are some exercises that may help. I used to take my grandchildren to Lake Michigan on the Winter Solstice. We would collect big stones and write on them with a Sharpie, each stone getting a word representing something we were ready to toss as we got ready for the New Year. Some people use a dumpster or a fireplace. Some just use a long walk in the woods.

If you are lugging around some tension connected with a co-worker, perhaps you’re ready for a fresh start in that relationship. If you can’t imagine starting a conversation about it, you might pull out that terrific book by Susan Scott, called “Fierce Conversations.” It has been helpful to many of my clients in that kind of a situation.

A favorite quote from Emerson encourages me to do a little Osoji practice every day. Here ’tis:

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too much spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

I wish you a very happy Fresh Start as we tuck away the leftovers from the past year and start the next with more open spaces, hearts and minds.

Jo Gorissen is a certified transition coach and a former Milwaukee resident. Her web site is www.coachingconbrio.com and she can be reached at (414) 305-3459.

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