Friday, September 10, 2010

The End of Things

I don’t like endings. My mother always said you should look at an ending as an opportunity for a new beginning. She was frequently optimistic like that. I am not. I face newness with hesitation. I hate for things to end, not only because of the sadness of the loss, but because of the uncertainty that lies ahead. Summer is ending, kids are going back to school – new teacher, new classroom of friends, new set of parents, new academic challenges. This is my daughter’s last year in elementary school. That phase of her life is ending and in addition to heading into middle school and all the associated anxiety that goes along with that process – deciding where to go, which program best suits her, which school is good, affordable and geographically desirable and won’t require us to camp out overnight on the street to get her a permit to attend (seriously, it’s an option) – what will truly be ending is her time as a little girl. She’ll be diving head first into tweendom, complete with changing hormones and that teenage cockiness and confidence which can only come with a considerable lack of knowledge about how things really work. Although she’s not even a tween yet, I can see sparks of it already. From her eyeing my spot in the driver’s seat and envisioning herself there, to her new and growing love of phone, text and email, to the look of her face and body which no longer resemble the baby faced toddler who used to bounce on the sofa and sing along with Blues Clues.

I always get somewhat wistful around this time of year. I don’t like to see summer end, I never have. I don’t really relish endings of any kind. Once I get into a groove, I like it there. It is comfortable and secure and routine. That works for me. But endings mean change and that’s something I’ve never been fond of.

Endings in all possible variations are tough, and yet as mom said, they are really beginnings. Endings bring change. The changes may not feel desirable or even possible at first, but often, in retrospect, we realize that the changes were not only for the best, but that they were required to take us forward to the next step, to show us that we can cope and stand up and meet any challenge that change may bring. Seasons, school years, jobs, marriages, childhoods, relationships, lives – they all start and often end too soon and never in the way we planned or even expected.

There have been so many endings around me lately, not only my own, but for my friends and family. Sometimes I wonder how we’re all coping with the chaos caused by those changes. Then I started noticing how a friend who was dealt a terrible blow in her life, an ending that I can barely imagine dealing with, was moving on. In the face of an awful situation, she was okay, she was helping her children be okay, she was using the change to motivate her to step out of where she had been in life, where in fact she had felt stuck, and move on. I asked her how she continued to go to bed in the morning and get up at night. She smiled and joked, “…with lots of medications and a glass of merlot.” But stimulants aside, she said that despite what had happened, the ending which had turned her life upside down, she was oddly optimistic. She saw the ending as a beginning.

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