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The Power of Good Endings

Good Endings
Image by Spencer Evers on Unsplash

My business coach, Isabel Parlett, talks about “harnessing the power of good endings”, “developing intimate endurance”, being present and engaged even when things are uncomfortable. These are part of her fourth quarter teachings and they are good ones. They’re also markers of our resilience.

So often, as we wrap up a business cycle, an offering, a sales month or quarter we usually have our heads into the next one. We’re always gearing up. What I’ve learned is that closure and reflection is always valuable and never a waste of time. Beyond the “what worked and what could have worked better”, is the reality of dreams and efforts. The grace of giving yourself credit for what you did without berating yourself for what you didn’t. Focusing on the gifts and the learning. It can be as simple as an internal acknowledgement, a virtual (or real) pat on the back and a gentle closing of the door.

And while the above reference is in the context of business, it’s so true in life.

Finding good endings in 2020

How can you apply this concept to the year of 2020? The year that wasn’t. Or maybe the year that shouldn’t have been. Definitely, the year that we won’t forget. For some, there was incredible sadness and my words will never be enough to make it better. Sickness and loss of loved ones is heart wrenching in the best of times. It was magnified this year with the inability to be with loved ones or grieve together if they passed.

This was also a year of fear, feeling untethered and resentful. There was widespread unease. For some a low-grade disquiet that shadowed us throughout the year; for others, a screaming, sometimes physically debilitating anxiety.

Looking for miracles

But before you pick up the cellophane sheet of your Magic Slate of a calendar and wipe everything out, ask if there were any bright spots, any gifts. Maybe, dare I say, any miracles.

We take so much for granted. For instance, as part of a recent guided meditation my yoga teacher had us visualize a friend whom we hadn’t seen in 20 years and think about how it would feel to greet them. All I could think about was how I wanted to be able to hug my siblings again. A privilege I had always taken for granted.

And, speaking of taking things and people for granted, consider the health care and front-line heroes and all those folks who went to work so you could get your groceries, your coffee and your morning paper, to name a very few things. Those people we just assume will always be there but are a bit too invisible in normal times. It will be a long time before they slip into the background again.

What do you want to remember?

In addition, there were wonderful stories of neighbors helping neighbors. Yes, I know there were the other kind of stories but those are the kind that sell newspapers and TV and internet ads. Those are not all the stories and anyway, where would you prefer to shine your light?

I love Isabel’s phrase “intimate endurance.” It’s a beautiful reminder to stay present right through to the end. So, take a moment now. Just pause and think about one bright part of 2020. Did you spend more quality time with family? Did you feel life slow down, just a little bit? Were you able to be outdoors more? Take a walk in the middle of the day?

Did you get to savor the quiet this past spring with fewer cars on the roads and planes in the sky? And did you notice the birdsong more? Did you get to garden? Was your commute shortened to the time it took to get to your home computer?

Find that one sparkling star

Yes, I know we can come up with flip sides to all this. But look for that one sparkling star. After all, “Without darkness, nothing comes to birth, as without light, nothing flowers.” (May Sarton)

Pause. Take a nice deep breath. What is just one thing that wouldn’t have been – couldn’t have been – without this year we’d like to forget.

After that, thank it, pull up the cellophane and clear the Magic Slate of your calendar. Then move on to 2021 and continue on with your beautiful Multidimensional Life.

I’ll see you there!

The Thanksgiving That Is

Thankful
Image by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

These are not ordinary times. Yeah, you’re thinking. Tell me something I don’t know! For me, it’s forced me to remember something I know but easily forget: that when we get stuck in the tangled web of what was, we lose the opportunity to see what is and what can be. It’s that rear-view mirror thing. But, untangle yourself from that trap and oh, the possibilities!

We can spend so much time looking backwards or worrying about the future that we fail to see the gifts that are the present. Yes, even this year when we’ve been turned upside down and everything we know has been shaken out of our pockets. We adjust our plans and our expectations. And that’s getting a bit old. Particularly around holidays. I know that I could have hosted a little pity party for myself but instead I decided to do a pivot. I shifted my thinking to what I can do rather than what I can’t and that feels so much better.

The Past

Old sights and memories mesmerize us. We feel sad about who and what’s gone: the people, the events, those things we can’t do anymore (at least not at the moment.) A mist of nostalgia descends. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this.

For instance, I have been hosting Thanksgiving for many years. It has always been full of little and big traditions that I love. To keep me sane I make lots of lists. I keep a legal pad tucked in with my cook books where I write down my Thanksgiving menu. The menu informs the shopping lists and all of that determines various tasks that get broken down over the day or two prior to the big day. After the holiday I rip the page off, fold it in half and tuck it in the back of the pad.

I don’t know why. I just do.

When I pulled out my pad for this year’s very abbreviated meal some of those pages fell out. As I picked them up, I noticed a sheet of paper that included a lunch menu. The rear-view mirror loomed and transported me back in time.

Eleven years ago, after a horrific accident that took 5 aunts and uncles, a friend arranged for masses to be offered for each of them in a local church. Several family members came to each mass. The last one was the day before Thanksgiving. I invited them back for lunch and a new tradition was born.

Memories

This particular lunch was tomato consommé, steak salad and cranberry pumpkin bread. I know my mother and Aunt Susan, along with one of my sisters and a few cousins would have been there. It was part of a bigger tradition which included my mother, sister and her family coming on Wednesday, staying till Friday and then getting together with another family for lunch and a poinsettia buying expedition. That tradition is over 30 years old!

My mother and aunt are both gone now. There won’t be a poinsettia get-together this year. Even as I type this, I feel teary. A longing for the “old days” surges up through my chest.

Holidays can really do this to us, you know? And even as I felt sad, I caught myself and shifted my gaze away from the rear-view mirror to the now. What can I do? Even though it’s different, I can still make it special.

The question is what can we do

That question is so relevant in our non-pandemic life, too. What can you do at this stage of life rather than what you can’t do? You’ve got so much going for you at this age. Life experience, clarity, confidence, resilience. I mean, sure, at this age I’m not going to be part of the corps de ballet at Lincoln Center. But what can I do to feel agile and graceful? Oh, yeah, I can do yoga. I don’t want to go back into the corporate world but I have a lot of knowledge and experience to share. That’s why I can be a good coach for those transitioning from a decades old career to their next act.

Hey, a little grief is healthy. I’m not going to forget my parents or friends who have passed, the wonderful times we all shared. The special birthday, the vacations, the holidays. Or the things I did when I was young, my career, my accomplishments and my belly flops. All of this, and more, is what makes me who I am. It’s the same for you.

Choices

Choose to love all your memories but decide in this moment to make new ones.

Make a smaller turkey and fewer sides. Watch the strange Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. Make it easy; make it fun. Who knows? Maybe out of this will come some new traditions!

Here’s to gratitude, pumpkin pie and a beautiful day!

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