Beginnings get a lot of attention. Baby’s first word, the first day of school, your first kiss. Making new friends, starting new jobs. New cars, new homes, new pairs of shoes. We love beginnings because they are pregnant with the promise of opportunity and the hope of growth. We tend to approach beginnings with planfulness. We daydream, we prepare, we feel the butterflies of nervous anticipation.
To experiencing a beginning, though, we must experience an ending too. A new day cannot start without the sun going down on the day before. Big or small, endings happen literally every day and yet we tend to have a deep aversion to them. We fight, we minimize, and we avoid.
I’m not immune to this aversion, and yet over and over again I learn how important endings are. When approached with intention and thoughtfulness endings can hold just as much meaning as beginnings – maybe even more. Taking the time to recognize the people, places, and experiences we are leaving behind as we move forward in our lives allows us to taste the sweetness of bittersweet experience, remember fonder times, stand in the strength of our ability to survive, or honor what is being lost.
This time of year is filled with endings: it is spring and the end of the academic year. We have emerged from the grey of winter and suddenly there is color outside. In a flurry of assignments, field trips, and final grades classrooms disband, roommates part ways, and educators adjourn for the summer. The city empties; colleagues go on vacation (hopefully you go on one too). Everyone is so relieved that it’s over and so ready to move on to summer plans! We want to rush on to better, brighter days!
It’s a great transition. I know you are busy packing away your winter coat and cleaning out your dorm room or locker. I know you are filling the recycling bins with used-loose leaf paper and trying to figure out what melted in the bottom of your child’s backpack. I hope you are making travel arrangements for relaxing and warm days. This year, I have a challenge for you: In the mist of all that rush, find a quiet moment to consider what you gained from this period of your life. Seek out a teacher or classmate or coworker who has had an impact on you and tell them about it. Set aside your excitement for sunny evenings and barbecues and notice what is being lost by moving forward – just for a moment. Honor it.
Honoring endings is extremely difficult. Most of us were never taught how. We say we are “bad at goodbyes” or we “just want to be done.” But like a muscle, we can exercise endings and over time we get stronger and the weight of them becomes easier to bear. Feeling loss can come to enrich our experience of our lives.
I have finally reached a point where I can turn towards endings and look them in the eye. Sometimes I even welcome them, and all the sadness they may carry. I know that I will survive them – even if I wish I didn’t have to. It takes some bravery. Every single time, though, I learn something new. Every single time I find myself able to engage with whatever is beginning next fully and with deeper understanding and engagement. Every single time I find that engaging in endings with intention is worth it.
If you would like to talk with Marion about transitions in your life, call her at 978-430-2405 or email her at [email protected]