11:59 PM

I burned my pizza to the stubborn consistency of a hockey puck the other night.

I was so absorbed in an essay on writing (or, rather, absorbed in emerging self-exploration through writing) that I left it in the oven for 9 1/2 minutes too long. Whatever charms may be possessed of frozen pizza are lost on the gluten free variety, and leaving a naturally parched crust in the oven 9 1/2 minutes too long is akin to 20 minutes too long for regular pizza.

I ate it anyway–reflecting on its original shape, form, and substance, now obscured by layers of charred cheese and disintegrating sauce. It was a pale reflection of whatever former glory it possessed.

As I glibly chewed, I pondered what else meets obscure ends. The minute 11:59 pm on December 31st of each year. It is, inevitably, obfuscated by the anticipation of the coming minute, pregnant with hope for renewal, transformation, change.

Nearly every beginning arises out of an ending; it struts out unabashed sometimes with little regard for how the ending preceded its existence and even less regard for how it overshadows that predecessor.

Not all endings are created equal, either. Some are stodgy and unkempt, others dressed with panache, still others modestly attired. But all endings have one thing in common–they meet the same fate. And since endings have to, well, end, in order to become the harbingers of future beginnings, we’d do well to pay a bit more attention to them.

Along with their mutual fate, all endings share an extremely important feature: relinquishment. Experiencing an ending means we are letting go of the possibility of sameness.

This is no small feat in a culture that avoids closing the door on possibility. Take evolution, for example. Culturally, we want to believe that what’s inherent in evolution is a perpetually growing greatness that layers on more and grander development while losing no essence of the former self.

We are a culture that wants to gain without losing. True gain only comes after relinquishment–sacrifice. Our beginnings have deeply painful, personal predecessors known as endings.

How many of you have wrestled with the pain and grief that accompanies endings? Your grief implies there’s a loss associated with that end. Parents grieve the transition of a child into kindergarten, or middle school, or graduation from high school. They know there are changes associated with those transitions that involve giving up their former experience of connection for a new relationship. A child going to Kindergarten may mean she is no longer at home with mom every day. A high school student graduating may be the precursor to moving away for college. Often we fight the relinquishment that accompanies endings. We deny or avoid or rage against the changes, only to be overcome by them anyway.

This week marks an important ending for me. It marks the end of my website, as is. It’s about to go through a bit of restructuring, which I will talk about next week. As I made the decision to embrace that change, I knew it meant giving up aspects of the former branding. Whether it’s nostalgia, naïveté, or resistance to giving up something that feels like a bit of my self, I wrestled to relinquish version 1.0.

Like that charred and partially disintegrated pizza, this website is only a parched translation of what I really want to say (much is lost in the space between my mind and the open page). Version 2.0 may or may not represent a closer approximation of what I would hope to share with you.

For better or worse, I’ve made the decision to move forward, and in that transition I accept the necessity of the end as a harbinger for a beginning, not the start of an ultimate and metaphysical reality but one small beginning in a world of rippling changes heralding the further emergence of self and community, forever altered by the uncomfortable finitude that preceded it.

What is your 11:59 PM? What will it take for you to end well as you transition to the new beginning?

 

The Many Layers of Grief

20130311-194328.jpgI’ve walked alongside many clients through the loss of loved ones. I’ve sat with them as they wept, questioned, doubted, feared, and accepted. I’ve walked alongside many more as they have grieved other losses, losses that are more subtle, but very debilitating.

Grief is often viewed in very limited terms. People contend that it’s defined by a “significant” loss of a family member or friend. In each loss, however, there are a thousand smaller losses. In each experience of grief a thousand ways that the pieces of that loss converge and develop into a significant process.

Some of those layers include the loss of unmet expectations or dreams, when we expect our marriage to go a certain way and we wake up out of a fog to find it a thin representation of our robust hopes. We can experience the loss of time, recognizing that what we wanted to accomplish has eluded our grasp, and left us disillusioned to the reality before us. Others feel the acute sting of lost health, where our hope of good physical, emotional, and spiritual health is disrupted by the reality of sickness, emotional pain, or spiritual numbness.

Grief is an infinitely more complex process than we often realize. And its a process that we all face daily, in some form or another. These layers of grief can derail us if we’re unaware of their formation and the magnitude and sway they hold in our lives. What are the layers of grief you’re facing today? How do they affect you?

When understood well, these losses can walk us through a process of evaluating and understanding ourselves. They can have the impact of highlighting how we’re lost, and where we could go to experience transformation. They can be gentle guides, rather than startling disruptions.

My own losses have guided me along, at times gently, and other times more sharply. I expected that my life would look very different than it does today. I expected my work, my family, my health, and my spiritual life would all have a different type of vibrancy. I couldn’t have anticipated the twists and turns my life would take. What I do know is that the more I surrender to those changes, the more freedom I have to come through them well, and to appreciate the vibrancy that is currently there. I hope you are able to experience that same freedom. I invite you to dialogue with me, share your own stories, or consider what the many layers of grief are teaching you today.