The End is Only a Beginning in Disguise
More often than not, we’re pretty good with beginnings. However, a lot of times we seem to hate endings. In stating that, I need to clarify there are a whole lot of things that we just can’t wait to wash our hands of. We all have those nagging situations that we desperately wish would give us blessed relief by vanishing altogether. Sometimes we can’t wait for the day to end, or for that looming deadline to pass, or for a particular event to be mercifully over. There are some endings that we gladly welcome with open arms, and by the time they arrive we find ourselves ecstatic that whatever’s done is finally done. Nonetheless, there are many times when we tend to hate endings.
Endings can be incapacitating and painful for a variety of reasons, most of which we never identify because we’re too caught up in the loss to see anything but the loss. We don’t really identify what we’re actually doing with whatever the ending is, or what the ending is actually doing to us because we’re too lost in the loss to even begin to consider any of that. And so, the fact that something is ending becomes entirely consuming to the point that the ending is all that we can see. And because it’s all that we can see, the ending becomes an end in itself when directly ahead of us new beginnings are being forged and fresh byways are being laid out from the very ending that we’re caught up in.
Because this tends to occur, we’re left with the inability to see within the loss the seeds of a new beginning. We’re not able to comprehend that an end is always a beginning. We can’t even remotely fathom that whatever is ending for us is always more than an ending. An ending robs us of the vision to understand that things are escorted out of our lives so that better things have room to be escorted in. We lose the understanding that death always begets life of some sort, and that life is always an opportunist, persistently standing ready to build something out of the smoldering ashes and raise something up out of the tangled carnage. We lose the precious sense that an end is only a beginning in disguise. And so, how do we learn to see a beginning being formed in the ashes of whatever end we’ve experienced? We might do that better by getting some obstructive thinking out of the way:
First, We Don’t Want to Lose Something
Quite simply, we tend to hate endings because many of our endings involve things that we don’t want to lose. Sure, there are many things that we’re glad to get rid of, but many times some ‘thing,’ or some person, or some life-phase played such a role in our lives that we can’t imagine going on without it. Or we feel that its end has come far too soon and we are bereft of everything we could have gotten out of it, or it out of us. Whatever the case, we’ve been cheated or short-changed or short-sheeted in some manner that elicits a sense of loss intermingled with a sense of anger. What we end up doing is seeing the loss within the agenda that we had created for that thing, or that person, or that life-phase, and we’ve not recognized a larger agenda that’s simply playing itself out so it can play other things in.
Second, We Fear That Whatever We’ve Lost Can Never Be Replaced
Then there’s the fear that what we’ve lost can never be replaced. There’s an immediate sense that losing something demands that it be replaced. There’s that sense where we don’t want to disturb the continuity of our lives and the rhythm that we’ve created. Things have been disrupted, sometimes dramatically so, and we want to stop the disruption by immediately replacing whatever it was that we lost. But then we’re caught up in the ever-accelerating fear that maybe it can’t be replaced. Maybe there is no substitution. Maybe there’s nothing to swap it out with, and we will therefore have to settle with the disruption of a “new normal” that we have absolutely no interest in. What we tend to miss is that replacement only serves to perpetuate the repetition of the past, where creating space for something new creates space for something fresh. And it is out of something fresh that this journey of ours is so often refreshed.
Third, Glorifying the End
But because we have to tolerate endings, we want them to be good and even glorious. We want an end to have some meaning to it, that whatever is ending was meaningful and possibly spectacular while it was around. If something’s going to end and we can’t stop it, we want to send it off with some sort of recognition or appreciation or final ‘hurrah.’ If it’s going to be an ending, we want it to be one that will be such an ending that it will never be forgotten. We can’t hold on to that which we’re losing, but we can make the end grand and glorious to the point that the memory of it all will always stay with us. There’s nothing inherently wrong about bringing something to a close in a manner that’s respectful and celebratory, unless this becomes our one and total focus.
Fourth, We Fear That an Ending Might Be a Failure
What if the ending is really a failure? What if whatever it is that ended wasn’t really supposed to end, but it did because somebody screwed up somewhere? What if this really wasn’t the time? What if this loss really was grossly premature and achingly unnecessary? What if this loss was due to my stupidity or poor timing or lack of insight or lackluster commitment? What if this loss was the product of someone’s blatant failure? Sometimes losses are so unexplainable and seemingly irrational that we think this way. And it may well be that the loss did not have to happen, and maybe should not have happened at all. Yet, life is big enough and has ample room to take the most tragic mistakes and weave them into the most wonderful of opportunities if we let it do so. An ending is only a failure if we choose not to tease out the manifold lessons in the ending.
Fifth, We Fear That There Will Be No New Beginning
So what if this is an end and nothing more than an end? What if nothing emerges from whatever it is that we’ve lost? What if life doesn’t go on, or there are no opportunities beyond this, or it all dies here? Could an end be irrevocably an end where a beginning of any kind simply does not exist? Is there a place where life stops because there is absolutely nothing else ahead? Could this be that dreaded chasm where this is no other side from which to pick up the journey? And it is this very fear that makes most of our endings so terribly frightening. We often wonder will the road run out, will an irrevocable end eventually come, and will there be no place to go because the future simply won’t exist and the past is forever gone. Yet, it is looking at the nature and fabric of life, and in the looking realize that things always find a way to go forward because there is always a place to go forward to.
An End as a Beginning in Disguise
As we approach spring and Easter, we are incessantly reminded of new beginnings. Life is a relentless perpetuation of things arising out of things that have passed. There is the coming and the going. The emptying out and the filling up. The uprooting and the planting. There is an unrelenting exchange that makes things unrelentingly new. The coming of spring heralds a titanic resurgence arising out of the debris and decay of fall. It is a message woven into the most intimate fabric of creation where nothing ends because an end is only a beginning in disguise. It’s living with the understanding that loss is real, and that loss can be utterly devastating. But loss is only a precursor to something that we will soon gain. It might be different, it could take us in an entirely new direction, it may well be unfamiliar, but it is the next step picking up where the previous step left off. And whatever the nature this new step might be, life is such that it opens new horizons, paints new vistas, and calls us to perpetual adventure if we’re willing to heed the call. An ending is only a beginning in disguise.
© 2014 Craig Lounsbrough, M.Div., Licensed Professional Counselor