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Endings and Beginnings

childrenshandsresizedOur life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every ending is a beginning.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have never been a good quitter in life and so it is not surprising that my relationship to endings is challenging. Still, this midyear cycle is always poignantly full of them with school year endings, graduations and all of the moving on that summer invites. This year, two of my children are graduating from college and my younger kids are completing their final years of high school. I am often struck by how the last day of anything, even the things we count down towards, can catch us off guard because, while it is easy to envision moving on from an activity like classes, leaving behind  the relationships within that context carries a silent loss that we often don’t recognize until it is gone.

Moving demonstrates this experience acutely. We expect to miss the primary relationships that we leave behind, but the daily wave from an old neighbor, the familiar banter with the barista at the coffee shop, or even the regular grimace of the mail carrier leaves a gap that carves a groove around the loss of the familiar that runs deep. This is where we come to grasp how relationships large and small create the container for our lives that define us.

Our early years together were marked with over a half a dozen moves, which makes me even now acutely aware that it isn’t just the relationships that I deem important that make me who I am; often it is the relating we do in context, the being seen and remembered in our daily encounters that creates belonging.

Our primary relationships in family, intimate friendships and romantic alliances are also subject to the contextual endings of life.  As my kids move on in their lives, the ways that I will have opportunities to relate to them will shift dramatically. The familiarity of routines that we have grown to take for granted will become poignant memories without our notice. Paying attention to the ways we feel connected amidst the ways that life circumstances require a letting go is how endings become new beginnings. Many of my dearest friendships that were cultivated in proximity have been long distance for more years than I lived nearby. Those that remain most dear are best qualified by our commitment to begin over and over with where we are connected.

One of life’s enduring truths is that even the relationships that disappear with the context in which they existed, have taken hold somewhere in us. Like a tree that gains a new ring on the inside with each year it has grown, our previous relating teaches us how to form new relationships. Every time we are authentically connected in life, we add an inch to the never ending circle of relatedness that we are.