“Amidst the worldly comings and goings, observe how endings become beginnings.” – Lao Tzu
I grew up in the era of big hair, fluorescent leg warmers, and “Never Say Goodbye.” There’s something so seductive about Jon Bon Jovi belting out “Never say goodbye, never say goodbye, holdin’ on we’ve gotta try, holdin’ on to never say goodbye...” We humans love the certainty, security, and predictability of forever, yet we know innately that impermanence is part of the human experience. Impermanence means that everything changes, and nothing stays the same.
Big hair trims down, leg warmers disappear into history, and goodbyes come regardless of holding on. A situation may change in minutes or decades, occasionally abrupt, and other times a slow fade. Even when we know that another door will open after one has closed, we can still struggle with impermanence. Often, we are usually suffering from wanting what we want when we want it, and how we want it. If life shows up a little sideways, we feel off kilter.
Haven’t we all looked back on a situation in which we were sure it was a devastating ending only to get to the other side and realize it was actually the beginning of something magnificent?
But in the moment, we might feel our blood boiling, our minds racing, or our hearts breaking. The suffering we experience as we approach acceptance while walking through profound and sometimes painful situations can shake us to our core. We must be gentle and kind to ourselves; the human condition doesn't allow us to have all the answers or live a life totally free from emotional and physical pain. What if when faced with changes we don’t feel excited about, we adjust the setting on our camera lens and focus on... What good could this change be ushering in?
When the dream house falls through, the bank account dries up, or a long marriage ends in an unexpected text message, when the diagnosis is revealed, the funeral comes too soon, or the company you’ve been faithfully dedicated to hands you the cold letter informing you of your new unemployment status—these moments of change become etched in our timeline. And whether the change is one of celebration and joy or leaves us frozen in disbelief and agony, the train leaves the station as if to say, we’re on a journey, jump on and let’s go.
Endings mean change and change can be uncomfortable, but that discomfort is the germination of a new beginning, one born of what no longer serves us. Positive outcomes in the future arise by letting go of the past and allowing our experiences to shape and nourish our lives rather than define and imprison us. Even after years of plotting our lives with absolute surety and noble ambitions, we can still bump into fear, uncertainty, doubt, and end up feeling overwhelmed. Change still evokes resistance even after we've seen the light at the end of the tunnel or looked for the silver lining. Why?
Our instinct views uncertainty as unsafe, and therefore it feels uncomfortable and sometimes even terrifying. Change is something we must practice leaning into because, just as our amygdala is simply attempting to help us survive danger, our inclination is to move away from any change causing uncertainty. While certainty can offer comfort, the unknown can evoke alarming fear. We are safe when we know what to expect. We feel secure when we seemingly have a solid plan, a trajectory, or believe we have more control over our lives than we do. Yet, if we sit still long enough during the turbulent endings in our lives, we come to know that it is the unknown which can become the gateway to buried treasures, beautiful destinations, and wonderfully fresh ways of thinking and being in the world.
When the inevitable moment of transformation shows up, remember that after the struggle, the chrysalis emerges as the butterfly, the chick breaks free from the shell, and the seed bursts into a corn stalk arising from the deep, dark depth of the earth. Our endings plant the seeds that sprout and change into new beginnings, allowing us to have richer, more rewarding experiences along our life's path forward.
So rather than letting an unexpected ending provoke fear, perhaps we might imagine a new chapter in life as taking off in an airplane heading into the unknown. Envision being invited to sit back with acceptance, resting our head on the seat back, releasing what was, while acknowledging and allowing the grief, anxiety, excitement, or joy to well up and take root. As we gaze out the window and embrace whatever direction the pilot announces, we will place our trust in a divine plan, knowing in our heart that the sun is always shining above the clouds, and no matter the flight path, we'll land in the right destination.
Cheers to new chapters!
Much Love, Amy