A few weeks ago, I took a hard fall on the ice, damaging my left shoulder. The injury was worse than I first imagined and I have had to take an extended leave from a job I dearly love, teaching fitness to seniors at the YMCA. I’ve led challenging fitness classes there for nearly 13 years, and now I’m unable to perform, much less teach, weight lifting, yoga, and other stretching and strength training exercises. To say that I “can’t” is hard for me. It’s a loss, at least for now.
But this example is minor, compared with life’s really big endings—loss of a loved one, divorce, financial ruin, termination of a job, foreclosure on a home, alienation of a child, eventually one’s own death. The loss that you faced when your spouse came out is certainly one of these major, destabilizing changes. However, the ensuing chaos can be the beginning of an even better way of life.
When my father died in 1991 after years of fighting leukemia, the whole family expected my mother to fold. For more than 50 years she and my dad had enjoyed real marital bliss—they were closer and more loving than any couple I’ve ever known. We thought mother could not survive alone. To eveyone’s surprise, she did. In fact, she recovered her balance and started over. Apparently, during the years she’d nursed my dad, she was preparing herself for survival. She made a plan. Within weeks after the funeral, she began to explore opportunities in their little town that had gone unnoticed before. She read voraciously—a hundred books in the following year. She attended library lectures and joined two card groups, volunteered, and made day trips with new friends she met at the senior center. In short, she reconfigured her life to be as rewarding as possible—despite her grief and loss. A little stained glass saying hangs in her window: “Every ending a new beginning.” She modeled that for me.
As this New Year unfolds, we will experience painful endings. What once served us may no longer fit. Change will happen in inner and outer circumstances. We will have to adjust to losses. We may have to start over in a whole new direction, as my mother did. This is not a bad thing. It is a growing experience. In the words of Eckhart Tolle, famed author of The Power of Now, “If you can learn to accept and even welcome the endings in your life, you may find that the feeling of emptiness that initially felt uncomfortable turns into a sense of inner spaciousness that is deeply peaceful.”
I wish you this peace!