As postworksavvy readers know, life has many endings — the end of work, the end of a vacation, the end of school, the end of summer, and, of course, the end of life.
The end of summer 2012 has me thinking about endings and about smart ways to deal with endings by re-framing.
North American culture avoids dealing with the concept of endings by marking endings as celebrations, often accompanied by some type of ceremony.
There is a party or a reception to mark the end of work and to celebrate the beginning of retirement. Cruise boats hold gala dinners on the night before disembarkation. The end of summer is celebrated with harvest festivals and fall fairs. A death is marked by a ‘celebration of life’ as a rite of passage and not a traditional funeral.
Ending is final
Websters’ dictionary defines ending as ‘a thing that constitutes an end’ or a ‘final part’. It refers to some kind of a finish or a conclusion.
In Western society we live according to a culture based on linear beliefs of beginning, middle and end in the pattern of life.
There is always joy when beginning something new — starting a new project, moving to a new home, leaving for a vacation, starting a new job. In the middle phase, the challenge is to persevere, to enjoy, to accomplish goals and get to the finish. At the end, there is usually a void. What comes next?
Ceremonies have a special importance in helping people deal with endings and in helping them to move on to something new. Usually, significant family members, friends and peers attend to recognize accomplishments and commemorate a rite of passage.
There is a ritualistic component to ‘ending’ ceremonies. For example, graduation ceremonies mark the end of a cycle of formal education. Students are honoured for their success and the stage is set for transition to a higher level of education or another phase of life.
The practice of recognizing accomplishments through ceremony can also be used to inspire others. Whether it is a significant achievement such as winning an award or attaining an illusive goal, a celebration of accomplishment sets the stage for moving ahead.
Endings Become Beginnings
If done well, the ‘ending’ ceremony marks a transition from one phase of life to another.
Aboriginal cultures mark the change of seasons with ceremonies that recognize the earth/moon transitions. Many spiritual practices celebrate each day as a new beginning that provides the opportunity for inspiration, excitement and adventure.
An ending ceremony sets the stage for a new era with the hope and joy of beginning something new.
Retirement as a New Beginning and not the End
Reframing retirement into a new beginning and not an ending creates an opportunity to use the wisdom and the learning of earlier life experiences to start anew. Retirement means the end of work but so many new doors open.
Rather than reminiscing about the past or fearing the unknown, re-framing endings into new beginnings keeps life stimulating, rewarding and challenging.
It is with hope and anticipation of a new beginning that I mark the end of summer 2012. At the cottage, I’ve put away the beach clothes and the beach furniture. Sunscreen is no longer a daily essential as the sun’s rays weaken. Chilly mornings make me reach for a sweater and not for sandals and a tee-shirt.
As the trees change into fall colours and pumpkins fill the market stands, I delight in the new season. Yesterday I took a long walk and enjoyed kicking the fallen leaves while listening to the crunch made by my footsteps. Autumn smells are in the air. There’s an excitement in my kitchen as I begin preparations for Canadian Thanksgiving.
Therapists often use cognitive re-framing to encourage people to shift their mindset.
Thinking about the possibilities in a new season helps me to embrace the beauty of autumn instead of mourning a summer that is gone. There is a shift in perspective by focusing on a new season.
Life is short. Keep your focus on the possibilities that new beginnings bring and leave the past behind.