Take a December Pause

When December arrives, it always hits me in a profound way. It’s cold, wintery, and the “ending” of the annual 12-month cycle of months of each year.

JanusWithout particular formality, I always find myself pausing to seek perspective…I look back, and I take stock. I pause to look at life in the context of what is ending, what needs to end, and what might begin. I participate in my own way with the cycle of season changes.

Serendipitously, the book EXIT: The endings that set us free by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, called for my attention. It helped allow the metaphor of the current year’s annual ending to take on broader significance.

There are so many exits over a lifetime.  Those we anticipate and those we choose seem to be the most common in our younger years as we grow and change.  Then there are those that come unbidden, the welcome and not so welcome, and the ones that bring relief or bring pain, or both.

How do we notice them, make peace with them, make meaning of them, and handle them gracefully?  If that is occurring now, you might want to create your own December Pause.

–Name your endings
–Grieve and/or Celebrate
–Say Goodbye or Good Job!
–Feel and allow the empty “spaces”
–Welcome your soul whispers

I am choosing to not rush too quickly to fill the empty spaces.  The “doing” of the New Year will come after I  explore, experience, and grieve the endings I am noticing or creating. The recent presidential election, to put it mildly, ended some certainties about the health of our democracy. We don’t know what will unfold over the next months and years, nor do we know where we will want to put our individual efforts.

On a personal note, I have finally chosen to let go of a lingering relationship, after repeated and unsuccessful attempts at resuscitation. It is both painful and a relief.

On both counts I feel sadness, confusion, and grief as well as an openness to possibilities. I currently allow myself to exist with the mix of those feelings without needing to “fix” them.

How about you?    “What’s ending for you?” “What things in your life must end in order for you to claim a new level of freedom? What about your endings might propel you into deeper commitments and a willingness to articulate and claim your true values and needs?” “Could there be blessings to be found?”

Approaching the winter of my life at my 76th year, the fact that I will someday have a “final ending” is an idea that more than occasionally comes to visit, and sits down in the armchair next to me for a chat. It’s another exit that’s on my mind, one for which I choose to prepare.

However, I need to remember that “aging does not mark an end, but rather a beginning of making sense of end questions, so that life can have an end in every sense of the word.” –Ann Belford Ulanov, in Aging: On the Way to Ones End, p. 122.

Yes, I own up. I am pausing to savor all levels of ending questions in December of 2016, not all of them cheerful. Do remember, please,  that paying attention to the large ones, the seemingly small ones, and the ones we are not yet ready for, does not have to be depressing. It just has to be real. As in, Feel. Breathe. Grieve. Stay open.  We are, after all, participating in a natural cycle of constant change… or as some would say, a culture of permanent white water.

Here’s an idea!  How about lighting a candle and giving yourself the gift of a pause?  May your attentions to your own particular endings, whether chosen or unbidden, return clarity to what really matters…. and prompt you to eventually get on with it.

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