The more things change, the more they remain…insane. Over the Hedge
Change involves three steps, in no particular order- endings, beginnings and the ambiguous middle ground in between. Lets call that middle ground, begendings. It seems appropriate to make up a word for this ambiguous middle ground. Do you ever know for sure which point you’re at? It’s messy and you mostly muddle your way through it. It involves some waiting, a lot of patience and a large tolerance for confusion.
Things do end; relationships, careers and tax years for example. But the emotions that come with these endings rarely end on cue. You need to take some important steps to end well what you just ended in name or circumstance. It’s one thing to leave your partner, your home, your job. But if you are going to leave, then really leave. If you leave tentatively, but keep chasing the ghosts of yesterday or running away from them, you aren’t really leaving and you aren’t fully living. End well, and you can move on well. All it truly well that ends well.
In many cases, you may have made a very bold move to end something after years of unhappiness. Now that you have summoned the courage to overcome your fear, don’t tremble at your own audacity. Don’t pause mid leap. This is the moment that really counts. Follow through and truly end this as fully and well as possible.
The residue of memories and unresolved feelings often keep you in limbo, stuck knee high in the muddle of the middle. Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron offers what may be one of the most profound and important pieces of wisdom of all time, “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” Nothing! Not emotions. Not haunting memories! Not physical symptoms of stress. Not bitterness. Not bad dreams……
So listen to your body, your emotions, and your intuition! Allow your inner wisdom to guide you! Integrate and heal those stubborn feelings and move on unencumbered by yesterday’s baggage. The key thing here is to listen, allow and heal ALL of it.
In Charles Dicken’s book The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain, the main character is haunted by painful memories. A ghost turns up and offers to remove all his memories. He jumps at the opportunity. After it’s too late, he realizes that this blank slate presents a new problem. Sure, he has no painful memories. But he is miserable, and spreads his misery to all he encounters. Along with his memories, he loses the capacity for tenderness, empathy, understanding and caring. He loses the ability to love.
The good news is that the story has a happy ending. He realizes that he’s not really alive in this state and arranges to have his memories restored; ALL of them. He regains his sense of wholeness and is able to spread some Christmas joy.
Maybe you’ve made a bargain with the ghost of denial, to bury some painful memories under a fence of humor or a façade of aloofness. Like the character in the story, you may have discovered that when you numb the dark, you also numb the light. As you take the edge off pain, you also take the edge off joy. But you can create a happy ending just like Dickens’ haunted man. Break off the bargain with denial just as you broke off the relationship. End the pretending just as you ended the job.
It’s tempting to think of the haunting memories as an annoyance, and put them in the too-hard basket or the too-painful pile. The powerful thing about Pema Chodron’s statement is that it reframes the memories. Instead of resenting them, and setting yourself in a battle to the death, reframe memories as your teachers. What is this stubborn memory teaching me? What is this niggling injury telling me? What has this nagging bitterness got for me, to move me forward?
All IS well when it ends well, and it ends well when you can wish your ex well, wish your memories well and move on with a clear mind and an open heart. Allow it ALL and live a full and integrated life. Your freedom will liberate others, your courage will inspire others and your joy will sing for all to hear.
This is part two in a series on beginnings and endings. Part one looked at accepting impermanence so that you can live fully. Part three looks at assumptions and perspective. Part 4 is about making peace with time as a new perspective on endings.