You’re now at the beginning of the end, while I’m already halfway to the end,” my counselor, a warm and wise old soul told me as we sat across each other. It was a Thursday morning in October when I went to see her for our annual life review.
Once a year, on my birth month, I pay my counselor a visit, and in an hour or so, we look back on the year that was, discuss whatever issues there are, and reflect and prepare for the next year.
I always look forward to this meet-up because it’s always an enriching exercise.
A few days after our meeting, I turned 54. It was a quiet birthday this year. No trips, no big adventure, no major projects, just quiet time and small get-togethers with family and close friends.
It’s been a terribly busy year, marked by a lot of endings. The house, where my children spent most of their growing up years, has been sold.
I’ve trained myself never to be attached to material things. When it’s time to let go, we let go, gently.
There’s always a tinge of sadness in every goodbye, and it is necessary to mourn every significant ending as a loss. Mourning is essential to healing and the best way to move forward.
When you’ve lived in a house for more than two decades, you accumulate a lot of things. My request to the children was for them to keep only what they could store in our current home, and to let go of the unnecessary. The result will most probably be a balikbayan box per child, filled with books and other memories from their childhood and teenage years.
One day I visited the old house, scanned the surroundings, and looked at the furniture, some beloved old chests, my work desk and some decorative items I had collected through the years. In as much as I wanted to bring them all, I realized it wasn’t practical. To store them would be too costly.
And then a voice inside me said, “You’ve lived without them for the last five years, and you’ve been happy. Bring only what’s necessary.”
My prayer now is that when I let go of some of my things, what once brought me joy will eventually bring joy to someone else’s home.
On most days now I’m by myself, since the children are busy in their own lives. One child is entrenched in the hospital almost 24/7, while another spends most hours after school rehearsing for a play.
I have reconnected with friends, learned to paint, worked on a social enterprise project, and thrice a week coached others through their loss.
I miss the constant presence of my children, and because of their chosen fields, weekends together need to be planned in advance.
It’s always a joy when we come together even briefly for a meal or a night-out. The time spent is always good for the heart and soul.
I gaze at my daughter and realize that at her age, I was already a young mother with a toddler. I say a prayer that her life will be better and kinder than mine. I need to remind myself that she is a young woman in intense pursuit of a lifelong dream.
I look at my son, the robust baby born after a season of great loss, and marvel at the young man he has become.
Quiet on a Friday
Because they are now slowly building lives, and pursuing interests of their own, I have had to reconfigure my days as well. The children know I am there for support, but I’ve learned to strike out on my own. I pick up new hobbies, learn new skills, and have grown comfortable with the quiet on a Friday or Saturday night.
I go out with friends more, have expanded my grief coaching practice, write deep into the night or read myself to sleep. When no one is available, I enjoy going to the cinema by myself and find strange comfort in crying buckets or laughing my head off.
A season of endings
This year I said goodbye to many friends and even family, some due to death, and others, by choice. Some relationships needed to be cut off, because they were no longer healthy. You need to make the conscious decision not to be sucked in by the drama and negativity of others.
To maintain your peace, you must be mindful of your thought patterns and actions toward yourself and others.
Catch the negative thoughts before they spiral, and remind yourself that everything in this world is temporary. There is a God who doesn’t sleep.
Fall is my favorite season of the year, and in many parts of the world the leaves have started to turn, heralding the beginning of winter. Fall always reminds me of the impermanence of things, and how after a burst of color, everything dies away.
But even after the harshest winters, as Camus wrote, there is always the promise of spring and an invincible summer.
The beginning of the end sounds morbid when you first hear it, but after you’ve pondered it, it serves to propel you to chase your dreams even more. It reminds you to manage your time well so that the remaining years are spent with those you love, and to engage in work that is meaningful and helpful for others.
“Teach me, Lord to number my days.”
Twenty, 30, 40, if you’re extremely lucky, more perhaps? Mary Oliver’s words ring in my ears—“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Waste no moment. Be kind as much as you can. Forgive quickly. Let love always win.