Endings and Beginnings

On our journey home there are many endings and many beginnings.

Were the changes you have lived written down, they would make for many books; so many goodbyes, so many fresh starts; so much sadness and so much discovery.

Endings don’t tend to feel so good. The ending of something tends to involve some unhappiness; and may involve a great deal.

And we don’t always know what’s to come. When I left the priesthood, I had no idea what I was going to do next. I just knew the adventure was over and stepped out into the abyss of unknowing.

It wasn’t easy. So it didn’t feel like a grand and exciting beginning – though it was a beginning, because there’s secret energy in endings. Something has to end before something else can begin, before life can offer fresh things to us…and life does.

The Christmas tree must leave to let in spring.

Discerning what has ceased to be useful is not always easy; familiarity can numb us to the truth of our life.

But it’s good to take stock sometimes. The purpose of a staircase is to get us upstairs. Once we arrive upstairs, we leave the staircase, we don’t stay there. The job of the stairs is done.

And in a similar vein, Buddha said that just because an old raft had got us over some difficult water, it didn’t mean we had to carry it around on our backs for the rest of our lives. Again, its job is done.

There may be other forces at work. Sometimes we avoid endings because we are frightened of new beginnings. This can happen.

Something may have died years ago, but we hang around the graveyard of circumstance – not happy there, but too afraid of the unknown to move on.

Of course, a beginning may not be leaving – but staying. Perhaps we work through some issues and return to our job with fresh eyes, fresh strength, fresh energy.

And I recently spoke with a woman who is back with her husband after two difficult years apart. They have both benefited from individual therapy – and their happy new beginning, with new attitudes, is to stay together.

And knowing there’s a choice can help. I know a head teacher who, on her way into work, always says to herself: ‘I don’t have to do this’.

Knowing she has a choice helps her to stay free…and helped her to stay through difficult times.

On our journey home, there are many endings and many beginnings. You may be pondering some of yours even now.

And if you are, some lovely words of John O’Donohue may cheer:

‘Beginnings often frighten us because they seem like lonely voyages into the unknown. Yet, in truth, no beginning is empty or isolated.

We seem to think that beginning is setting out from a lonely point along some line of direction into the unknown. This is not the case.

Shelter and energy come alive when a new beginning is embraced.’

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