It may seem strange to contemplate endings as we begin a new year. Or maybe not, given one year has to end before another can begin. But often we find ourselves largely looking forward rather than back at this time of the year. While many do reflect on what they have experienced over the previous year, many of us are far too interested in moving on to what will come next rather than dwelling on the past.
I certainly don’t begrudge that approach. But for me, I hate endings. I do not like to see television series come to an end. I am often deeply dissatisfied with the ways stories finish. I despised the endings of Seinfeld and The Sopranos and Friends and How I Met Your Mother, for instance. I am judgmental of how books conclude and how movies wrap up – often finding myself disappointed. I especially hate when vacation time comes to an end! And yes, I am even quite unhappy about how years come to an end: with only revelry about what it is to come rather than a reflection on what has transpired.
The only exception to my contempt for the ending and beginning of each year is the annual Google commercial, which always brings me to tears. If you haven’t seen them, check them out (especially the one for the end of 2016).
But beyond books, movies, television series and numerical years, the ending of relationships is clearly the most challenging – and about this it is particularly difficult to get it right. I should know. I have experienced the ending of two marriages and two other serious relationships. I have experienced the ending of my father’s life and the apparent ending of a sibling relationship. I have experienced the loss of friendships and the loss of connection in the workplace as my professional life progressed from one stage to another. In so many ways I have become an expert at dealing with personal and professional endings, but despite the repeated experiences, I still struggle to get them right, as endings always feel – no matter how they transpire – like I simply got them wrong.
But then I have to ask myself, is there a right way to handle endings? Is it more a matter of my perspective than anything else? Should I just chill about bringing things to an end and recognize that all things – good and bad – end as they do, for whatever reason, and that I can only control in my mind and in my behavior how things play out? Maybe I should find solace in the fact that listening to our inner selves is just as important as listening to others, especially when it comes to the ending of a relationship.
How about shifting the camera angle on endings to focus on how they can ultimately lead us to care for our own needs. I like to call these moments “breakreations” – a time when breakaways (or break-ups) lead us to a sense that we’re creating that next chapter of life. Perhaps we should zoom in on what will rise from the ashes of an ending – a something that will undoubtedly reflect that experience, incorporating both the positive and negative lessons learned along the way. This mindset honors what came before, but doesn’t ruminate on the ending itself. It offers respect for an experience, while listening to the inner voice telling us how and why we can and should learn and recover from what transpired.
Sure, it would be great to develop better skills dedicated to endings – but we rarely enter any relationship with the intent of ending it. But endings, nonetheless, happen. And no matter what form they may take, or how gifted we become at managing the ending process, we can step back, take a deep breath and chill, letting the feeling of calm come over us as we remember that endings are definitely a part of beginnings. We can’t just focus on what’s next, but we must honor the end itself – despite the difficulty in doing so.
As an unknown individual once said, “I am learning to love the sound of my feet walking away from things not meant for me.” Whether endings are a result of your choosing or happen to you, they are often a gift not yet fully revealed. Walk away, listen to your departure, and slowly unwrap the gifts that inevitably result. As for the ending itself, let it melt away in your mind as you consume a chilled beverage, and then turn your attention to your inner voice and the warm lessons it has to share.