End Well to Begin Well
Updated: Aug 31, 2019
I used to run from endings. My first conscious experience of an ending was an abrupt dramatic one and this influenced my relationship with them for many years. I was 4 and had been living in Cyprus for two years. My parents were young and idealistic with three small children and they went to Cyprus to escape the smog and drudgery of the U.K. in the early 1960′s, my father teaching English at a local school.
The first two years in Cyprus were very happy and I remember expansive blue skies, a glittering ocean and the warm golden sun. Then my world turned upside down. The Cypriot Civil War broke out and we were under siege, terrified and trapped inside our house for days, surrounded by exploding bombs. We were lucky: the British Army stepped in and evacuated us and we went with huge relief, leaving everything we owned behind.
And this has been my experience of change ever since: a slow hidden build-up with seemingly nothing happening and then a sudden, dramatic, transformational trajectory.
I think this will always be the dynamic but what has changed is my relationship with how I end and move on. For many years, my fear of what I knew was an inevitable ending meant that I cut myself from feeling it. I would rush to the end, stuck in my head, cramming down any grief feelings and focusing on the new chapter. This served me very well. It was no coincidence that I was becoming a change agent professionally and it was part of my identity to see change as a positive. It also served me that I did not have to ‘feel’. No grief, no regret, no sense of loss, no hesitation, all that unnecessary baggage weighing me down. Yes, I would sometimes fiercely resist the change, doing everything in my power to keep the status quo, whether it was a job, a home, a marriage. But once I accepted the inevitability of change I would want that chapter closed and I would rush to the next.
Of course, this inevitably meant I carried all that unfinished weight with me, to the next relationship, the next job, the next country, the next ‘whatever’. It grew worse; each supposedly fresh start brought accumulated, heavier baggage. The more I ran, the more I came back to the same emotionally stuck place. Nothing ever really changed.
Until one day I was forced to stay and face an ending. I had run out of places to run and I had to stay and face what I was most afraid of, namely myself. This is what Gestalt therapy calls the ‘futile void’. It is a very scary place, the unknown with no certainty or guarantee of outcome. It is why we keep pulling back from this place, why we keep spinning in the ‘busy fool syndrome’, filling it with noise, anything not to stay in our stillness and face the void.
And yet, ironically, this place is not a de-void place. It is deep and full. It is the container of feelings, deep buried feelings of hurt and loss. And beneath that something far richer. For if we allow ourselves to feel the fullness of this space, we are then able to move forwards into one of my favourite places: the fertile void. This is where true creativity and rich experiencing happens. It is the field that, having been allowed to stay fallow for a season replenishing its nutrients, ‘the futile void’, is now ready for growth. This is the place of hope and rebirth where we can make good, authentic choices and decisions. We still have to be patient in the fertile void but it is not a passive waiting. It is an active one, building our strength and fitness on all levels: mind, body, heart and soul, preparing us for the perfect timing of action.
I started writing this article in late May and my intention was that this was going to my last one for Cascãd, the company I began 10 years ago. As a brand, Cascãd was essentially me, one of its strengths but also its greatest limitation. We couldn’t find a way to scale this successful brand to the next stage, an issue many founders face, and it was suggested at a brand-positioning workshop that one option would be to end Cascãd and start another company, Cascãd evolved. Without a murmur and much to the astonishment of all in the room, I nodded. Having held so tightly to my baby for many years, I was now ready to throw it out of the nest and create something new.
So I went out to New York and started writing my farewell article to Cascãd. I was happy. The change agent in me was very ready to move into the next exciting adventure and I had also learned enough to know I had to honour what Cascãd had given me, to allow myself to feel its passing. But, as all change agents have to learn, we are not in control of change! I returned to the UK and learned I had been too precipitous: Cascãd’s brand experts firmly telling me not to mess with a strong and established brand. I was finally ready to hear the truth I had been resisting: it wasn’t Cascãd that had to end; it was my relationship to it. Or more specifically, my overly emotional attachment and identification with it. As in the Buddhist Theory of Non-Attachment, I had surrendered and freely let go and what emerged was a rebirth, an evolution. So Cascãd remains but grown up…with a new website coming soon… and what this change agent had to learn is that not all change has to be a sudden, dramatic, transformational trajectory!
I still had this article about endings, however, and my hesitation in publishing it was the title. It was too portentous, given the proximity to the EU referendum. The mood of this country was growing very tense and took many of us by surprise. As did the result and now writing about our relationship with endings feels poignantly relevant. Whichever way we voted and whatever happens next, we are all having to face change and an end to what was. It has been a tumultuous three weeks in this country with a horrible mash of negativity, fear and a morbid hooking into the drama.
I too had been feeling very heavy and hopeless in the aftermath of the referendum, but a week in, I began to question the intensity of my anger and sadness as well as the ‘critical parent’ I could hear in my voice. Yes, I was partly picking up on the collective unconscious but, beyond that, I knew my grieving was more personal: I was connecting to recent endings I hadn’t fully grieved in the intense, productive activity of the last 12 months.
So I stopped, took a deep breath and allowed myself to go into my stillness. I stopped gorging on the media, hooking into the sound and fury and allowed myself simply to be and feel. There is no set time or guarantee of outcome in the futile void but I have been there many times and I know the only way through to my ‘free to soar’ place, full of positive energy, hope and joy is by going through this process.
This is where I am now: in the rich, fecund energy of the fertile void. September is always a pivotal action time for me and all that is needed now to be fully ripe for the harvest is a few weeks of sunshine, rest and fun!
And wherever you are in the world, how about taking time over the next few weeks to go into your stillness, let go and see what emerges. And then may your next chapter be a very joyous and exciting adventure!