Endings and new beginnings

1962628_10152709152298849_1352050072_nThere is a sadness in endings, end of the school year, a holiday, end of a relationship, or job. The endings of life events, like childhood, first love, marriage, retirement, death. They are all occassions where it feels allowed to be sad, sometimes deeply so. There are so many endings during a life, that sometimes it seems to be ongoing and ongoing, piling up sadness upon sadness and grief. Sometimes it feels like there is no time to breathe in between endings, creating a lump in the throat, a stone in the stomach, a veil over the eyes.

And then, for a while, there are no endings, no sadnesses, no grief, and I realise that no endings means no new beginnings. There are no transitions, within which to rediscover, re-decide, restart. And I find this creates sadness as well, one that is quite fearful. It is understandable to be sad about endings, but is it understandable to be sad over not having endings or new beginnings?

During endings there seems to be a permission to feel, to defragment, and forgive. It is the moment where I can cry hugging a friend, or tell a colleague ‘thank you for all you’ve done for me’, without the fear that they might think I want something from them. It’s where there is the space to think ‘I’ve chosen to be an architect, but I actually really want to be a tattoo artist (or a body piercer, as I thought 4 years ago… don’t know what happened there… ). During the unraveling of the connections is when I no longer feel just the hands and strings that held me up in my place and position, but the actual sensation of my own two feet, firmly on the ground.

The endings where we have to say goodbye to people, out of choice or because we have to, are different.  There is a deeper sadness over losing a person who means something, or even everything to us.  The cruelty of moving on, having to move on without someone. But in that sadness, there is the permission to feel and maybe even show appreciation and gratitude. As we disconnect, we also become aware of how and where we connected, and although the letting go can feel like ripping, shredding, tearing, the former intertwinement of the two lives is also revealed. There has to be something there, some comfort, something beautiful.

Maybe that’s why I like rituals around endings; goodbye drinks, hugs, tears, songs, talks, they are good, sad and good. For me the appreciation, gratitude and genuine awareness of connections make goodbyes bearable. Endings are sad moments, with feelings of loss and grief, but to realise the beauty of what is lost, can sometimes make me feel like I will never really lose these experiences, lessons and loving relationships. I might have disconnected from the source, but I remember and will never be the same.

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Happiness…


If the last post was about depression, this one can be about happiness. I’ve started to think that for me happiness is not a permanent state of mind, but an emotion, like anger, sadness or annoyance. It’s passing, and that’s fine, I can actively try to get myself a bit of happiness by climbing a hill, cuddle or go for a wild swim. I won’t feel happy every time I do it but the chances are definitely a lot bigger than when I go to Tesco’s, sit in a doctor’s office or stand in line at a Starbucks (not so much because of the line, but because it’s Starbucks and I actually like coffee).

And sometimes they hit me by surprise, when seeing a little girl playing with a puppy, getting caught in an epic downpour, or sitting on the veranda at 7 in the morning with a particularly well made coffee.

I had a chat with Joe once about 2 years ago, outside the front porch of a small hostel on the Isle of Skye. We talked a bit about happiness and I wondered at the time if it was just contentment with what you have at that very moment. I had felt euphoria when on the top of a mountain or when swimming in the Scottish sea but never did I feel completely like that for an entire week, or day even, and very rarely for an entire hour. I’ve thought about it since, a lot. It’s the ultimate goal in life isn’t it? Happiness… but what the hell does it mean? How would you describe happiness?

So building on that old idea, maybe contentment or satisfaction with who you are, who you are with and what you are doing and where is sometimes described as happy. Lines like “I’m happy with my husband” “I’m happy living in this town” or “I’m happy to stay at home watching tv” come to mind. Maybe it means something like “I wouldn’t want to change anything”. Which is fine, it’s good. I think it might be the best you could hope for. I’m wondering though if that should be described as happiness.

In the old fairytales they would end with ‘and they lived happily ever after’. That sounds rather boring I think… Maybe, if I go back to wondering whether happiness is ‘just’ an emotion, the best I can hope for is to feel this emotion often and purely. I feel pretty happy waking up in a cuddle, or when walking on an epic Australian beach, but it does pass, and other emotions come up, and that’s totally okay. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy that day, it just means that I wasn’t entirely completely happy for the entire complete day. There wouldn’t be room for other emotions if I had been and enough stuff happens that calls for other emotions in the span of a day. And that’s fine.

When in love you get heaps of feelings of happiness, when being kissed, being looked at, being touched, but (at least after the first few weeks of euphoria) these emotions pass until you are kissed again or even just think about the other person. If someone makes me happy it doesn’t mean that I won’t feel any other emotions or won’t have any days of feeling like utter gloomy crap.

For me it means that he very often gives me little moments of happiness. It means these moments are very pure and he hardly ever fails at making me feel them. And I also think it means that I wouldn’t trade him for anyone in the world. I don’t know what you would call this feeling, but it makes me feel comfortable, at ease, excited, loved and happy. I guess the closest thing that comes to mind is not necessarily the word happiness though, but simply the word ‘home’.

 

Jude


Francesca

Francesca met her husband over 50 years ago. She had many boyfriends, 2 engagements and one failed marriage behind her when she met Wally. Suddenly  life made sense to her, love was not just attraction or infatuation. Love was comfort, complete comfort, it felt like an eternal embrace, love filled her up and up and up. Francesca had met her soul mate and married him a year later.

They were happily married for over 50 years. Well in their 70s, Francesca would sometimes go on a trip with the local bus and William would be waiting at the bus stop for her to return. He would be there 15 minutes early, just in case the bus was early, and she would be the first one to get off the bus. Every single time. After 50 years they would still feel butterflies when they were reunited. He adored her, she adored him.

William would still caress her shoulder in the middle of a party, would still look at her from across a room full of people, would still hold her at night and kiss her in the morning. For over 50 years they felt happy, through tough and dark times, through good and blissful times. They could not have any children but this never made them doubt their relationship. Their partnership was one that held them both in equal union.

William fell ill with cancer, terminal cancer. Francesca looked after her husband and best friend, both knowing that the bond was about to break but still genuinely smiling at each other and still feeling in love.  He left the nurses in tears by telling them over and over again with tears streaming down his face that he couldn’t die because he couldn’t leave his wife, he never meant to leave her alone. He wasn’t afraid of dying, he was afraid of leaving her.

3 Years after William’s death, Francesca lives on her own in their house, surrounded by a few of his pictures. Her house is immaculate, and she just needs me to help her with the vacuuming. Francesca is 82 now, and often talks to me about love and happiness, grief and death. She tells me that being in love is the best feeling in the world, and she is the luckiest person because she had over 50 years of feeling it every day.

She tells me that because her love for her husband was so strong, her loss is larger than life as well. She tells me that every day there is a moment where her grief utterly overwhelms her and she feels emptier than a black hole. She tells me about how the fact that her husband was spared from feeling this kind of grief is one of the only things that keeps her going. She finds strength in knowing he was always perfectly happy with her.  Francesca is getting weaker, and it’s frustrating her. But in a way I feel she is at peace with this as well.

I don’t think Francesca will ever stop grieving, and as she told me her story I teared up a bit while holding her vacuum cleaner like a teddy bear. The value of her love for William was so great that when she lost it, she lost everything. Yet she still smiles when she talks about him and still says she is the luckiest person in the world, even though she is in pain every single day. I like Francesca a lot. I grief for  Francesca’s pain, and hope at the same time I’ll be just like her. She said the risk of falling so deeply in love is that when you lose it, it will leave a deep deep hole. She also told me it is worth it a hundred times over and I should never settle for less.

I think that was the best thing I’ve heard today. Today was a good day.

Jude