Because Sometimes Endings (34 of 90)
I’ve never been very good with goodbyes.
Actually, it’s endings I disliked. The sense of loss, the incomplete-ness of it. A closed door that is never quite shut but inevitably locked. Always knowing there are things – some unknow-able things – that are happening on the other side.
For years, I fought against endings. And in some cases, this is good. There are some things we most certainly must fight to retain and maintain.
These things are few and far between, though, and they come with no flashing sign: “Fight For This Here!”
Instead, we’re left to constantly struggle between fighting and letting go.
My mind has been tuned, though my alcoholism, to cling desperately to the things around me. To keep, control and hold tight anything that resembles a light. A life preserver in the chaos.
Then a funny thing happened…
Almost one year ago, I had a conversation with someone who at one time had been more than a little important in my life. A relationship that was continually almost one, but never quite one.
I couldn’t tell you why. We just never did. And so it wasn’t.
It ended badly. Without, really, any words. Just anger. And spite.
Our lives, in very different ways, spiraled into uncontrollable darkness from which we both emerged. If not unscathed, then at least intact. The pieces, those that were broken, were not unrepair-able. The ships have been righted, the masts up and the tail-wind strong.
The last time we spoke, I apologized: “You were, I think, a life raft. You were the thing that I thought if I could just have, that my life would be okay. The drinking, the darkness, that wouldn’t be there anymore. You were this thing in my head, I think, that wasn’t you.”
That call ended. There was another. Then the winds took our ships in different directions, fading into different sunsets over different horizons.
It felt good, that ending.
Not because it was over. Because it was right. And righteous. And we both knew, I think, that endings are not always bad. Goodbyes are not always sad. And friendship doesn’t always need the present tense.
Because sometimes endings make everyone happier.
Not every story can be told here. Or I chose not to tell every story. It’s important to acknowledge that lest you think my writing brave or fierce.
There are some people in my life so vicious, so wounded by life and by me and by things I will never know, that they will never appear on these web pages.
For some time I wondered why I couldn’t bring myself to write about my life with them, these people. They were instrumental, foundational in my now. Even today, they attempt to reach here, octopus arms.
There is always a tinge, that moment of hatred and anger that wells up when they appear. That moment of terror and fear. The memory of emptiness I felt with them.
It does, though, pass.
All that is left, then, is for me to replay in my mind the things that I did to them, the things that have pulled the damages from before me, onto me. The part I played. The mistakes.
I have made my amends in the way that I needed, though, and for me they have ended. The tentacles still flip around my life, harmlessly. I suspect they always will.
Because sometimes endings will be one-sided.
This May, my students will begin leaving.
Truthfully, I typed “leaving me.” It took me a second to realize what I had done. Of course they will not be leaving me. They are graduating, growing up, venturing into the world, pursuing their dreams, their loves, their passions.
They will go have great successes and heart-breaking tragedies. They will climb mountains and lay to rest in valleys.
They will do as we do.
I have had students graduate before. But never en masse. I haven’t stayed around long enough to see my kids grow from nuggets into adults. I haven’t seen them make that giant leap from childhood to adulthood.
But I will. And soon.
I am already preparing myself for the heartbreaking sadness that will wrap itself around my unbridled joy. The heart-swelling emptiness that comes from loving.
Worse yet will be August, the start of the new year when my classes are full with the yet-unknown next batch of “my kids,” who will never be my first group but will always be their own group.
Because sometimes endings are the start of new beginnings.
There was a tepid instant message chat. Some writing. A few texts. Then a phone call.
Her voice, as her voice is, was unsure. Endings that have nothing to do with me are hard as well. The endings that others have, the ones that bring hurt and sadness and pain and sorrow. Those maybe worse.
Because there is nothing that can be done. No words or deeds to quell the shivering voice. There is no right in that situation. There only is.
In my life, I have spent much of my time avoiding endings, digging myself into work. Hiding from the inevitabilities of life by seeking solace in whatever tasks were in front of me.
And her voice, which I hadn’t heard in some number of days, shivered. I couldn’t reach out, put my arm around her, and listen. Or make her laugh. Or just be in the ending with her.
All I had was the phone and her call.
I closed my door, pushed off a meeting and paced my office. There was an ending, not related to me, that needed attention. Unsure what to say or do because these are new waters for me, I did the thing that my father and mother have done for me: I just tried to be. Not to solve or to fix or to cajole. Just to be present.
It’s amazing the power that comes with that. It’s the one thing that I can – and want – to offer to her.
She doesn’t quite believe it yet. Not entirely. Most days she can’t contemplate it because there are endings, not related to me, that are hers. That are being, will be, healed.
Then, her life will blossom and unfold before her eyes, at some point unexpected. A future clear of debris and wreckage and carnage and hurt. A light joy, a full happiness.
I have lived this before her. Or parts of it. I see how this ends just as those who lived this before me saw it before I did. This is The Way, I suspect.
Whether I am right or wrong on this point, though, is irrelevant. The ending, not related to me, is hers and I will be present as she goes through it. I will watch and support and encourage her as life unfolds for her.
Because sometimes endings are opportunities.