Sep 18, 2010

You cannot listen to the news these days, or pick up the phone and talk with a friend and not hear about endings.  From natural disasters to personal losses of loved ones, to an unusually high national unemployment rate, it seems that everywhere I turn I am hearing about (or discussing my own) endings.  I suppose this is always true, but to me it seems much more prevalent than it ever has before.  Perhaps I am maturing, perhaps there is something going on globally, perhaps both of those and more.

There is pain associated with endings, and one of my favorite quotes from the movie, The Princess Bride, explains it well:

“Life is pain, Highness.  Anyone who says differently is selling something”

I have spent many years with this quote, or ones like it, trying to decipher the hidden message within it that would make it all OK, that would take the sting out of this statement, something that I could think about, if only I could understand it better, to make it make sense.  All the while I was asking my head to process it, to guard against it with rational thought because I was afraid it was too painful for my heart to feel.

Recently, I have come to believe that rituals, particularly rituals that include the gathering of people, have stood the test of time because in the face of loss, that is to say at the precipice of an ending, there is not much rational thought that is helpful.  Instead, the knowing glances, loving gestures, inviting ears, and open hearts of friends are about the only way to endure an ending.

Yes, yes, I know, there is the anticipated beginning after the ending, that is the highly celebrated phase of life.  But, I would like to give endings their due.  More importantly, I would like to spend time acknowledging that all of those things I never understood as a child, like holiday rituals or rites of passage have a very important role in society, and in personal lives.  I’m not speaking of specific religious ceremonies, no, I mean the things, the rituals, the ways in which every society recognizes endings, for example a funeral.

I do not think the importance of these rituals has to do with the actual ceremony that is performed; rather, I think their unifying factor, the one that makes any ritual helpful, is the simple gathering of others.  I now believe that somehow knowing that we all experience that fact above, that life is pain, or at least painful, the common understanding and witnessing together of this fundamental nature of life, is the way we survive.

Recently, I have experienced many painful endings, one of which was the loss of a beloved pet.  Talking to people about it, and knowing that my friends and loved ones knew and would acknowledge my pain, even though none of us understand it or can find the precise words to describe it, was what helped the most.  Connecting with others and hearing their experiences with similar confounding loss in their lives, and having to begrudgingly admit, as they did, that there are many things in this awe-inspiring life that I simply cannot control, was the only way I survived.

Earlier I mentioned that I was looking for rational ways to deal with the quote above, that life is pain.  Now, I feel it is more the strength of the heart that endures endings.  The heart, in contrast to the head, has irrational ways of knowing.  Although the word has an unfortunate reputation, irrational simply means a non-logical way of knowing things.  I used to think of logic as the only way, but in dealing with the undefinable abyss of endings, I found it to be lacking.

From my experience with endings over the past year, I have learned some things, such as-  There is nothing that can be said which will make it all make sense; some of these endings will always be painful; many people are going through a lot of pain at any given time; when I interact with others if I can acknowledge my own pain as well as theirs–even if it is just through a smile- I show compassion for us both; and the only way to survive this life is with each other and connecting our hearts together.

In this way, endings have taught me to love, and to receive love.  My friends and loved ones have helped me in steadfast, sturdy, wise, and surprising ways; and I thank each and every one with tears and smiles.  The best part of life, of my life, are the friendships and relationships I share with others, and I cherish them.

What about you?  Would you like to comment on how you have survived endings in your life?

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One Response so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Rashin D'Angelo
    September 19th, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    Beautiful post Brenda. Endings are often challenging, but yet help expand our heart.