Embracing Endings

It’s hard to talk about the end of anything…we tend to love beginnings, but endings are generally hard. I’m an aries myself, and it specifically states in my horoscope that i’m dismal at endings, finishings, completions. And despite my general skepticism regarding horoscopes it’s true! Sprightly as can be at first, then sure enough, dragging my feet…toward…the finish line. I’ve come to terms with that side of my personality. A repetitive maturing dose of that ‘job well done’ satisfaction helps remedy my ongoing battle to see things through to the very end. But what happens when you get there? We don’t like to dwell on anything once it’s done, over, finished. It’s on to the next event, project, relationship, moment. It actually seems to me now that culturally, we North Americans are much better at launches, new seasons, new models and novelty in general. It’s exciting, pure, young…the future’s promise. We also love to talk about and flaunt our firsts, celebrate new chapters and encourage breakthroughs, the excitement of a brand new day.

But there is something to be said about endings, the importance endings also have in our lives. To me the hardest endings involve people: friends, lovers or family members. When faced with the end of a relationship with someone I inherently love or loved, now there’s real pain for you. Why? Why couldn’t it work out? Why couldn’t we get along? Why couldn’t we live in the same city? Why did he have to have 3 cats I’m allergic to? Why didn’t we communicate better? Why didn’t I listen better? She was such a good friend, why did we drift apart? We used to talk all the time what happened? And then there’s the other extreme, the end of say…an exquisite meal. Mmmm, why? Why couldn’t that last forever too? Why couldn’t my stomach be a joyful bottomless pit? Why did the food run out? And then sometimes I even wish I could literally hold the sunset off for a couple of hours, blissfully extending the day just that much longer, just so night wouldn’t fall and with it that perfect day I’d had. To stop time, to extend moments, to get second chances, why not? Well, I’ve been thinking lots about why not…

It started 3 weeks ago when I went to see ‘Monsieur Lazhar’, Quebec director Philippe Falardeau’s latest french film and Canada’s latest oscar nominated best foreign film contender. I won’t give too much away except to say that in this beautiful story, the lead character, played by actor Mohamed Fellag, is a teacher, a recently immigrated teacher who’s own personal silence faced with a disastrous personal loss is mirrored in his new classroom’s own drama. The children, his students, are not encouraged to talk about a recent painful event. They are spoken to about it, counselled, therapied all about the ‘why’ this or that difficult thing or ending happens but they aren’t truly given the chance to talk about what the end means, the confusion and sadness of the aftermath. To me, a big message in this film is that if we share our losses, if we allow ourselves to talk about the end of something we loved, the final chapter of a given situation, it allows for the best kind of growth. The kind that acknowledges the truth about life and humanity in general, that it’s a hard journey, that it has beginnings and endings, but that we thank goodness have one another to experience it with. Children are especially fragile when it comes to endings because most of their lives are made up of beginnings, firsts, emotional novelties. We would all agree i think that we tend to shield children and each other from endings, try to protect them and each other from acknowledging that ‘all good things come to an end’, from the pain that naturally flows from that fact. I sat in the dark after watching ‘Monsieur Lazhar’, amazed at the swelling of moments lost, moments i wished i could remedy, talk about, people I wished I could talk to or see again. And that swell was ok, it was needed, important. The smile that stretched across my face on the bike ride home that night was summoned up earnestly because i’d allowed myself to feel out those endings, to reflect on them in a more attentive way.

The second wave of inspiration to write to you about endings washed over me this past week when i saw director Alexandre Payne’s latest film ‘The Descendants’. I’d enjoyed ‘Sideways’ so much back when it was released in 2009 that anything this man directs or produces i’ve made it a point to watch. In his latest story, Payne sets up Georges Clooney’s character Matt King for a very big emotional fall. But he sets it up against the backdrop of one of the most gorgeous vacation settings on earth, the Hawaiian island of Oahu. It’s a family story, with Matt’s two rebellious young teenage daughters facing a loss with him, experiencing the end of something very acutely for the first time, with their father. The irony, the subtle contradiction of setting human pain against swaying palm trees, rumbling turquoise oceans and sun drenched white beaches is masterfully enlightening. You see, Matt’s two stubborn daughters open up to their father and he towards them in ways that would never have been possible if they hadn’t been processing the end of something together. Hawaii or no Hawaii, the humanity of it is strikingly simple. It’s a moving, incredibly touching story about how crucial it is for us to embrace endings together, to talk about them and allow them to flow through us the same way we celebrate beginnings.

I guess what I’m getting at is that we can’t stop time, extend moments and rarely get second chances. So when faced with the end of something, anything, we should pause to acknowledge it’s importance, learn from it what we can and most importantly, we should be allowed and encouraged to talk about what it feels like to face that undeniable part of all of our lives.

And so, as this exciting 2011 holiday season kicks off, I feel like telling you to be kind to each other and yourselves, to look upon the end of this year with appreciation for what you’ve experienced, the good and the bad. Most importantly I’d like to encourage you to celebrate the here and now whole heartedly: you have the power and the right to make this moment as much about the growth you feel in the end as it can be about the excitement and faith you feel in the beginning.

With all my love,
Happy Holidays Everyone!
Joyeuses Fêtes à Tous et à Toutes!

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