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Acknowledging that beginnings inevitably involve endings, we come to understand, to honor and to embrace the intertwining of grief and joy that we experience at such thresholds. 

Beginnings and Endings

Beginnings are times of joy and, also, times of ending…
Even endings that feel "right" inside are times of grieving.
Beginnings are times for both celebration and grieving.
Allowing the grief to flow allows the joy to blossom more fully!

It was late August of 1984, just a couple of months before my 44th birthday. I had finally thrown in the towel after an abortive four-month attempt to reconcile with the former partner with whom I had struggled painfully over the preceding seven and a half years. (See Others' Views for more about this challenging, fraught relationship.) I was emotionally exhausted. Ojai was in the midst of a heat wave: over a week of above 100-degree days and I was trying to move into a wonderful rental house that was to be for me alone.

I was feeling both excited and miserable. The guys I'd hired had moved all my things into the new house, stacking furniture and boxes against one wall of the large, A-framed main room. There was lots of cleaning to be dealt with before I could begin to arrange furniture or to unpack my stuff. But, it was too hot to do anything and I was too disoriented by the ending of the living-together relationship to contemplate beginning to nest in a place of my own.

Instead, I'd drive to the beach in Santa Barbara. After hours of walking at the tide line I'd be irresistibly drawn to the current doorstep of my ex-partner. Though relieved to have finally extricated my self from what had been an emotionally abusive relationship, I couldn't stay away from her long enough to roost in my new life. At night, I camped out on the floor of my Ojai house or the floor in her Santa Barbara house. Either way, I spent my days in Santa Barbara not in Ojai. Nothing got done at my waiting house.

I felt crazed by this strange dance I was doing but couldn't cajole my self into any different or healthier feeling behavior. It went on for ten days. Then the heat wave broke and so did my paralysis. I began staying in Ojai. And, baby step by baby step, I started to claim the lovely space that Spirit had brought to me.

As I cleaned, moved furniture and unpacked boxes I'd feel devastated, sobbing uncontrollably. I ached with grief over what I was giving up: the hope that I could find a way to be all of me with this person that I was leaving. I mourned what felt to be the final severing of the enmeshment between my now-ex-partner and me. Then, when I kept finding ways that my things fit perfectly into the spaces available, I'd get excited and do little dances of joy. The new house was wrapping me in its comforting arms, welcoming me to the threshold of the next chapter of my life. I'd feel a billowing up of promise, of the freedom once again to be all of my self, uncontained. It was a confusing and paradoxical time.

I knew that separating out from the love-turned-deadly-symbiosis was the best thing I'd been able to do in many years. I felt brave and strong and courageous. I felt proud of me, grateful to Spirit and the Grandmothers for their help in this process of releasing my self. I felt equally grateful to them for their help in bringing me the gift of this sweet living space. At the same time I felt abandoned, bereft and suffocated by my anguish.

I went on like this for several months, feeling the joy and the grief braiding together: sometimes alternating between them and sometimes feeling them simultaneously. I often felt like I was going crazy in the middle of it. Other times, I understood that I was getting sane.

Slowly, as I rode with whatever feelings came up, I found that I was spending more and more of my time in the joyful spaces. The sieges of overpowering grief came less and less often. They lasted less and less long each time they came. The times of being with the joy and celebration came more and more often. They gradually lasted longer and longer. All the while, the grief, when it hit, continued to be as take-your-breath-away fresh as it had been from the first. Only with the passage of considerable time did that intensity begin to diminish.

We've been taught so little about the complex emotional whirl of beginnings and endings. We are ill prepared for the inevitable both-and of exhilaration and anguish. We are confused by the sorrow that fills us even when the ending is one we've chosen, one that feels totally right for us. The emotional reality often stuns us: the beginnings we embrace enthusiastically are simultaneously (and inevitably) the endings of what had been before and even righteous endings bring sadness and feelings of loss.

We (and others around us) can think we're crazy when, in the midst of celebrating some wonderful newness, we fall into what feels like an inexplicably blue space. "Why are you feeling unhappy, this is such a wonderful beginning?" we, or others, ask our selves. And, "Why are you acting so mope-y, I thought you'd be so thrilled to be done with that situation, that relationship, that challenge?"

The voices of our own inner critics and those of other people's undermining commentaries often push us to close our selves off from the shadow side of the complex mix of feelings. We squelch and see as unreasonable the normal flow of sorrow over the endings that are part of these beginnings. As we relax our censorship and allow the grief to flow, we open our selves more fully for the blossoming of the joy.

Remember that beginnings are also times of endings, that beginnings are times for both celebration and grieving – consider giving your self permission to feel all the seemingly contradictory feelings.