Lessons in Gratitude Day 992–Endings and Beginnings

I am not a big fan of endings. I know they are a natural and even necessary part of life, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them. In 2011 when I first started this blog I was reeling from a series of unexpected endings: the end of a six-year relationship, the loss of a job, and moving out of the home I had shared with my partner and our small family and into a condo with my son and my dog. Those endings were difficult, painful, and abrupt. I spent much of 2011 and nearly all of 2012 regaining my footing, getting my bearings in a new and unfamiliar landscape, and recovering a sense of who I was and what I could do in the midst of the drama and trauma that had overtaken my life.

In October of 2012, my rickety little ship limped into the safe harbor here in the same city as my three sisters. I came with a hope and a promise that things were on an upswing after a number of difficult yet oddly rewarding months in California. I came to work with a wonderful crew of people doing important work and became part of a team who at times resembled a wonderfully wacky, sometimes dysfunctional but always passionate and hardworking family. I had my share of challenges in this new place, but I managed to find my way back to lovingkindness, compassion, joy and equanimity to balance the pain, loneliness, depression, and anxiety that had attended me when I first arrived. Embraced by my sisters, reconnecting with them after living far away from them for decades I slowly began to recover and heal.

Now I am approaching an ending of my own making. After two years safely anchored among family and connected closely to a cadre of terrific staff in my office as well as good colleagues in other units across our institution, I am being drawn away back to sea on a new adventure. As was the case with the abrupt and painful endings I experienced over three years ago, I didn’t seek this new adventure; it came looking for me. Sometimes good things also sneak up on you, popping up in front of you when you least expect it, or tapping you on the shoulder while you’re looking intently in front of you. Such was the case when this new opportunity in a new place presented itself. At first I studiously ignored it. I was busy, I had other important things I was working on and was making good progress. Still, at each step in the process I struggled. This new opportunity was intriguing but I already had important responsibilities, vital work to be done. And there were my sisters, my colleagues, my work.

After weeks of agonizing struggle, weighing pros and cons, connecting with loved ones and trusted advisors, I arrived at the decision point that I would in fact pursue the new opportunity. Then came the exceedingly difficult part of letting my office colleagues know–one by one–that I was leaving. Over the past days and weeks as the circle of people whom I have told of my imminent departure I find my life taking on a surreal quality. In meetings I still find myself saying what we will do next month, only to realize that the “we” will not include me. Initiatives that I’ve helped create and launch will go on without my participation, my guidance, my leadership. Though this ending has been of my choosing, it is nearly as difficult as those that were outside of my control. It still involves a letting go, a saying of farewells, a walking away from people about whom I’ve grown to care very deeply.

We all will manage the endings that will take place over the next week (I leave right around the holiday). I might not shed a tear externally, but on the inside my heart is weeping. I know it sounds melodramatic, but it’s true nonetheless. I am grateful for the connections I’ve made to these people; they are firmly attached to my heart tissues and cannot be removed. They have added many colorful threads in the tapestry of my life and I hope I have woven parts of myself into theirs. I am not a fan of endings and yet I must make an ending for this chapter of my life.

With most endings come beginnings. I am grateful for the opportunity to connect with a new group of people in a new place, once again doing important work. It all seems to be part of the seasons of life. People and places flow into and out of our lives leaving indelible marks, even as we leave our marks on them. I am grateful for this place and time in my life, for the people now in my life and who will remain. Endings and beginnings. And so it goes.

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