Undo Unhappy Endings
Why do endings always feel unhappy or sad? Whether it’s a sappy movie or a proud graduation, we tend to push off, cry through or saw off like it’s a gangrenous limb, our endings.
What if it didn’t have to be like that?
What if we could celebrate every ending, and beginning, for what it is – another transition in this life of ever-evolving experiences.
The Beginning & the Ending
If you’re reading this blog, you have goals. You are ambitious. You invest in your own learning and development, both personally and professionally.
If you’re anything like me, continual development and growth isn’t just an activity, it’s a value.
As you step out of your career, job, skills, even hobbies, you’ve likely invested in a course, teacher, or perhaps even a degree.
You shared struggles with your peers, broke bread with those who walked your path before, even Netflixed and chilled with others just watching your shenanigans.
You’ve worked hard to understand the lessons offered. You’ve practiced and reviewed, sometimes even repeating the learnings, so you really “get it.”. You may have even helped others deepen their ability to both utilize and apply these studies.
Regardless of the years, investment and time, you have “done the work.”
Standing on your ascended peak, you look around and see more mountainous terrain – new projects, expanded expertise, even additional accolades – all available to you.
Then you look down the hillside and notice a few stragglers.
Some of these people have helped you, acted as a foil to your learning, perhaps even guided you and shown you the way during the most challenging parts of your climb.
You may be feeling remorse, regret, or shame that you’ve now left them behind. But why do you have to feel this way?
Why Do We Feel Bad About Those We Leave Behind
Somewhere along the line, we were led to believe every end must be Disney perfect, with joyful tears and American “values” oozing at the seams.
Sometimes we avoid “the end,” because endings are designed to be sad, full of lessons unlearned and unshared sentiments.
Suddenly we feel like there’s no take-backs and our mistakes and regrets may overshadow the learnings and growth. We’re tired but very aware, there’s another challenge just around the corner.
We become attached to our knowing. A sense of familiarity. Calling the shots.
Each journey gives us an opportunity to reflect and evolve. Our ego and mind grip onto certainty and patterns as a way of creating safety and security in an inherently uncertain world.
Some of us are hard-wired to attach, and without conscious practice, we can grip onto relationships and situations, even when they are harmful to the attached.
People share experiences, creating connections and common ground. An “us vs them,” camaraderie develops between 2 people or smaller groups.
Oddly for us westerners, what we may be unaware of, is the benefit of ritual. The familiar “teacher,” the common participants, the start and end, or a boringly predictable day.
This ritual contains our experience in a way that feels protected, even if we are actually quite threatened in those moments.
Attachment yields disappointment.
We personalize what is an external, uncontrollable experience. Suddenly, our experience is happening to us and we’re helpless, flailing about blaming, resenting or traumatizing what is a very neutral happenstance. Hence, the end. The need to end “this,” so we can begin “that.”
Attachment to anything is something to grow awareness around.
- Do you fear or avoid the end?
- Do you stretch experience and relationships far beyond their benefit to you?
- Do you externalize or blame others or environments when resentment starts to creep in?
- Are you the last to leave the party (oh, just me?)
Attachment doesn’t make you a bad person, this tendency is just something to be aware of, as this need to white knuckle every experience and never let it go can keep you stagnant.
It’s harmful when it hurts you. Especially when it damages the relationships that have ultimately been beneficial in your life, until … now.
Because you learned what you needed too and received everything you deserved!
What if you could celebrate every end? Document the wins. Look at the regrets and mistakes alongside the learning and growth opportunities? You can honor what was while creating space for what will be.
Whenever you don’t feel GREAT, it doesn’t have to mean anything other than, “huh, maybe it’s time for something different?”
When we fill our life with joyful activity, journey’s that excite and delight, and recognize the hardship as a way to deeply appreciate the good stuff, endings are exciting.
A natural conclusion, creating the next, new beginning.
How to Admit It’s Over, and Move on
What if endings didn’t have to be sad, or happy? What if they simply bookend different experiences in your life?
Some of us definitely prefer predictable patterns, and others think variety is the spice of life.
You may even prefer to keep things same-same in some parts of your life, but completely unhinged spontaneity for others. That’s the beauty of our human experience, you do you boo.
Know and understand your preferences, but importantly, where they came from. If you find yourself avoiding and stressing out over change and uncertainty, ask yourself why?
- Where did this come from?
- Maybe you watched a parent or caretaker wring their hands over the slightest uncontrollable detail?
- Maybe you watched them leap from one crazy idea to the next creating a very real amount of fear and uncertainty for you.
Regardless of how you experienced change as a child, this will absolutely inform your tolerance for change as an adult. Moreover, the only constant changes, so pick your battles, my friend.
There is a useful amount of worrying and control, but that can easily blow out to a debilitating amount of stress and micromanaging.
Investing your energy into all sorts of variables that have no impact on your well-being and happiness is a huge drain, and * ahem * it’ll drive everyone around you crazy (see the aforementioned anxious caretaker).
Familiarize yourself with where you can ride the roller-coaster of life and where you need the reassuring repetition of the merry-go-round.
Some of us prefer to take care of the mundane details of our week, like groceries, cleaning and meals on a particular day, scheduling transportation and events around our work.
Others book out their workweek and leave the rest to fate.
My partner never knows what’s going to happen on which day, pushes everything off to the last minute, and often finds himself pulling all-nighters to get it all done, but that works for him.
I chip away, loosely plan everything from sleeping to clients to calling my mom, get it all done with ample space, so I can accordingly.
He thinks I am anal AF and I think he’s a disaster. And it works!
This is not a productivity blog, it’s a coping with change blog, and it’s actually inspired by one of the more challenging ends – when we leave behind our teachers and guides.
So before I digress further…
The End of A Beautiful (and Mutually Beneficial) Relationship
Maybe you’re the main character in Varsity Blues, amongst generations of community and entrenched expectation, screaming “I DON’T WANT YOUR LIFE.”
Or perhaps you’re finishing up a mentorship or course, you’re getting bored, and it’s time to move on.
Do you feel guilty? Shameful? Afraid of what your teachers, guides, family, peers, and friends may think? How could you possibly suggest you’re “done?” WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?
You’re done. You did it! Why aren’t you celebrating? You learned what was on offer. You studied, practiced, and aced the test. You even helped others get it done.
You got this! So, what’s the problem?
Why does it feel weird to admit that you graduated? You’re GOOD! YOU ARE SMART.
Wisdom is experience AND skills, learning AND application, meaning, it takes time.
Am I suggesting you’re better than your teachers,? No. But is it time to take your newfound success and walk this path, yes?
While you hide in the shadows of your teachers and templates, you are mimicking rather than synthesizing. You are protected rather than autonomous.
It is time for you to end this chapter, and write the next.
If this is terrifying? If so, go back to that first time you stepped out on your own. The first time you felt this desire to play it safe or play very close by. What happened?
Did you fall flat on your face? Did it hurt?
Was it embarrassing? Or maybe you really fucked shit up?
Maybe it was simply a child’s experience of pain or shame, that as an adult it seems silly.
A client shared how he used to piss himself on the pitcher’s mound every little league game. But no one noticed. How traumatizing was that experience? Not very, but he did learn to hide.
Even in the center of everything.
Writing Happy Endings
Check-in with yourself:
Does this experience feel good?
Challenging, in a good way?
Are you still trying new things?
Or is it starting to stale? Feel soft? Get predictable? How does that same-old thing feel?
Once you dig deep and get to the bottom of your own unhappy endings, you can reframe that experience.
Admittedly, I create endings just so I can start something, I love the experience so much.
I did have to practice celebrating my wins. As I often ignored my own progress, but once I owned my expertise, my confidence expanded exponentially.
Does this mean I am perfect? Hell no. Does it mean I’ll never sign up for another course or invest an obscene amount into studying under a mentor, of course not!
But it did give me permission to happily … end.
I can graduate from relationships, courses, jobs, people, cities, quite frankly, anything that feels “done.” You can too.
You can evolve the way you think about everything, and especially the endings
You make the call. There’s no right or wrong answer. You will take years to absorb the goodness of some experience, and a matter of hours, if not minutes, for others.
Whatever the timing, trust your instincts, and call it when you are done. Celebrate.
And start The Next Big Thing.