Some endings are tough for me. Actually, let me be honest. Most endings are challenging for me.
And, writing an ending to individual blog posts can be the most challenging aspect of writing. Often, telling (or writing) a story, I feel compelled to give a thorough background, replete with relationships and descriptions of how I felt, then get to the crux, and finally wrap it up. When I’m writing, I have to pick a place to end, even though I don’t want to put that final period on the page. I feel like all stories need to end with ellipses.
From Kristen Twardowski’s blog: “knowing when to stop has always been hard for me. In my head, I can’t help but carry the narrative on. What happens to the hero after she defeats the evil king? What happens after the protagonist gets married? What happens to the soldiers who were part of the losing army? What happens to the rest of the universe when the brightest star in a galaxy explodes?
Similarly, saying goodbye to people can be equally difficult. Too often, saying goodbye has an unknown quality that reeks of “when will we see each other again?” As my friend Erin says, “goodbye to me is like growing up. It never seems like it’s real until you’re in a situation that calls for an adult perspective. Or in the case of goodbyes, it never seems real until after the fact…”
Why? There’s always something more, even if it’s an event that occurs months or years later. I like knowing the whole chain of events from the omniscient point of view, which is why I love my work. As a Coach, I get to hear people’s stories and witness their growth over time. Thus, endings are more like an unraveling.
My clients have discussed how certain goodbyes are harder in their imaginations than when they really happen, including ending a relationship or quitting a job. There is a big discrepancy between finality and see you later. We’ve all had goodbyes that are really “until next time” and others which become final. Sometimes we know deep down when they’re going to be the end and other times we’re surprised.
I had one goodbye that has lasted over five years (and counting), but it started out as a 30-day goodbye. This one didn’t feel so difficult; the challenge was the relationship. I haven’t felt compelled to reach out again. In that goodbye, I had a strong sense that stopping the relationship was more important than carrying on feeling unfulfilled. I’ve been involved in many long “see you soons” where some of my friends and I have not had opportunities to visit or even talk, but that doesn’t stop us from caring about each other. I’ve had other goodbyes where I knew we would meet again. Those are rare, beautiful and often painful in a different way. I’ve written about timing before and that’s one case where it matters a lot.
I think part of the difference is mindset. How do we approach the end? How do we know when it’s going to be permanent, semi-permanent or a pause? Will we get back together or will we part ways for greener pastures? Is goodbye the only (best) option or the easiest?
A recent trip to visit my family ended with tearful goodbyes. Leaving, I realized I’m not sure when we will visit each other again, but feel confident that there will be a next time relatively soon. And I have a dear friend who moved abroad last week. As proud and happy as I am for her, I’m choked up at the thought of our relationship changing. Maybe that’s what’s tough about experiencing and writing endings: the changes, uncertainty, unknown…