Beginnings and endings

beginnings and endings
Image courtesy of Tongrajantaduang at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

September in the UK traditionally marks beginnings and endings.  The start of a new school year, the end of the summer.  The end of the growing season and the start of harvesting and storing food for the winter ahead.  Unfortunately not the start of a new series of Doctor Who this year, but we can’t have everything.

While beginnings and endings like these are part of a historical and shared experience, we also go through beginnings and endings which are more personal.  While it may be easy to share joyful beginnings and endings with our social groups – marriages, graduations, moving home – it can be much harder to reach out when times are tough.  A ending such as the death of a loved one, or a beginning associated with starting over after leaving a bad relationship, are times in which we most need support but can find ourselves most unable to access it.

Often the biggest hurdles to getting support are both finding a support network and being able to actually ask for help from the people in it.  What might hold you back from seeking support?  Do you fear what people will think about you if you ask for help?  Have you had bad experiences in the past of needing help?  Do you believe you can, must and should do things alone?  Are you scared by vulnerability?

Part of the process of going through a beginning or an ending is the change associated in our identity.  For example, when you have left school you are no longer a student (and some might be very glad of that!) and you might then be an employee (or similar) instead.  Some changes to our identity can be much harder to get used to and process – for example, the ending of a marriage and transition from being a spouse to being single.  These changes in identity can be very difficult indeed if the change was sudden, unexpected or unwanted – for example, a bereavement.

How many different ways might you describe your identity?  Mother?  Brother?  Friend?  Employee?  Retiree?  Sportsperson?  Artist?  Volunteer?  How might these identities begin and end, and how will you manage the transition and new identities?  What changes are welcome, and which are not?  How will you acknowledge and enjoy the good while managing the bad?

What beginnings and endings are happening for you right now?

Endings and beginnings

Endings and beginnings
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

People have marked endings and beginnings for thousands of years, perhaps most formally since the first calendars (lunar, astronomical, seasonal…).

I was interested by the image of the Roman god Janus, for beginnings, endings, doorways, gates and times of change.  He had two faces – one looking to the past, the other to the future.

What really interested me was theis ‘double-sidedness’.  A beginning – such as a new year, a job, a home, a new life choice – often means an ending of something else.  That change can raise questions of identity, as we shed something we used to have and define ourselves by the new thing or new relationships.

At New Year so much focus is on new goals or beginnings, but very little is on endings so I would like to look at them here.  Which things are you going to say goodbye to at this time?  What would you like to say goodbye to?  Is something holding you back?  Are there any things you are saying goodbye to with joy?

Perhaps you are facing an ending you do not want to happen.  How will you mange that?  Will you be marking the ending in some way – a ceremony, a specific act?  Sometimes these formal ‘rituals’ can help to bring “closure” and aid healing after an ending.  Do you have a support network to help you make the change that this ending brings, and they they be part of the ceremony?

When you have faced your ending, whatever feelings it brings up, what parts of your identity have changed?  How do you define yourself?  By your relationships?  Your job?  Where you live?  Family?  What has changed, what has ended, what now takes its place?

What might seem a series of simple questions can uncover far deeper meanings, and that uncovering can take time (as self-discovery so often does!).  That is why marking endings and beginnings is found throughout human culture, and why it can be so useful to take time to look at them now.

I sincerely wish you a happy, prosperous and fulfilling 2017.