Kristin Armstrong Masters the Art of a Do-Over
The door to love opens when you give yourself a second chance
Ever since my kids were small, we have had a family code to help us get back on track whenever we mess up. The words, “Can I have a do-over?” signified awareness, an apology and an intention. Let’s say I was on my last nerve and raised my voice at my favorite (and very active) little people, and immediately regretted losing my shit. I would say, “Guys, can I please have a do-over? I’m sorry I raised my voice. If I could go back and do this better, I would ask you nicely to stop dumping out all the clean laundry I just folded and using the basket as a cage for your sister…” Something like that. Do-overs were a common occurrence at our house. The more I modeled do-overs, the more my kids did the same. To this day, when there is a tense situation or an impasse in our family of grown children, that code still holds. To my knowledge, no one has ever been denied a do-over.
Now that I have some clients with small children, and I share this method of circling back and clearing the air, I realize how powerful it really is. I love hearing later how their kids responded and how good it felt to ask for, and receive, a do-over. The odds of doing it better the next time are far higher because the intention is already pre-paved. Trust and connection are often fostered more deeply by a do-over than if one had handled something perfectly the first time.
A do-over is defined as a new attempt or opportunity to do something after a previous attempt has been unsuccessful or unsatisfactory. Nowhere does the idea or the art of a do-over seem more powerful than in the arena of love.
For anyone who has loved and lost, survived a break-up, death or a divorce, the idea of trying to love again can seem like the most daunting, even foolish, notion in the world. Why would one knowingly subject oneself to the potential pain of loss or disappointment … again? Some hearts never really reopen, which to me is more tragic than tragedy itself. Others rush in, eager to circumvent the arduous path of healing, which is where all the lessons lie. This often leads to repeated lessons, and the futile sense that love is elusive, or a struggle. Some people are blessed to weave a blended family together, and the tapestry can sometimes be stronger than the original fabrics.
My marriage ended when I was 32, and I always expected that I would marry soon after and have more children. I sobbed years later when I cleared out the attic and parted with old cribs and dusty boxes of baby things. Some beautiful (and some not-so-beautiful) men entered and exited my life as I learned more lessons about myself, and about what I wanted … and what I did not. For a few years I loved a man I could imagine blending with, which is saying a lot because my criteria for a man to be my kids’ man were even more rigorous than the standards I held for a man to be mine. As it turned out, I couldn’t play small enough to make him feel big, couldn’t love him enough to make him feel lovable. It was time to let that go. I savored the last stretch of time with my chicks in the nest, and then they flew.
And I thought about my do-over.
What would it look like to find Love for me, today?
What does love look like when you don’t need someone to heal your broken heart, or pay your bills, or fill your emptiness, or make babies, or raise the children, or be the disciplinarian, or cook the steaks, or take out the trash, or make the plans, or make a house feel like a home, or make a tradition meaningful, or do the taxes or investments, or hang the Christmas lights? What if you have been doing all this, and everything else, for many years?
What would it look like to find Love for me, today?
What would it be like not to need things, but want to share them? To feel entirely whole, healthy, happy and do life with someone in the same zone? To not blend a family as much as create more space around the table? To widen and deepen treasured friendship circles? To go on adventures? To expand life that was full and beautiful to begin with? To multiply every form of abundance? To put in practice the idea that when you know better, you do better? To be more accepting, tolerant, easy-going? To know exactly how rare it is to find your person, so you don’t squander the treasure of time or connection? To create vision, share purpose and passion? To understand that there is nothing broken, therefore nothing to fix? To laugh, deeply and often? To have reciprocity and mutual respect for each other’s gifts? To support the other’s goals, dreams and desires? To travel the spiritual path? To know how lucky you are, and believe that your lover is pretty lucky too? To multiply joys and divide burdens? To make a collective impact? To know that someone is not just in your corner, they are your corner? To live in freedom, the beautiful balance of intimacy and autonomy? To have authenticated your voice and honed your power to choose, and from that place to choose each other? To be young enough to feel the heat of the fire, and old enough to kindle a slow and steady burn?
When you least expect Love, suddenly, there it is.
At long last. My do-over is no longer overdue.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.