Endings and Beginnings

Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.” – Dalai Lama

We use certain dates as “end” dates, and others as “start” dates: birthdays, anniversaries, New Year’s… We started to work, we started to diet, we stopped smoking… Last week I learned a new word. Next week it could be something else I learned. Endings and beginnings can be very good for our minds, our spirits, and even our bodies —like when you start exercising. It takes one to have the other. And yet, many people are afraid to end something that needs ending, and are even more devastated by unexpected endings.

There is a certain art to the way we approach these changes, so they flow rather than paralyze us. Ellen Goodman, an American journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist, has said “There’s a trick to the ‘graceful exit.’ It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over — and let it go. It means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or its past importance to our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving up, rather than out.”

Not an easy “trick” to learn, since most of our lives we learn the total opposite: hold on to this person, stick with this job, stay in this house, keep this, keep that. No one ever teaches us to “let go”. And few things can be as toxic to our wellbeing as holding on to the past, to grudges, to anger, to resentments.

I see interpreters around the country doing just that: angry because someone else got a job they wanted, resentful of others they deem “less worthy” yet get paid more (or accept lower rates), unhappy with their present situation and constantly waiting for something to change (but not actually doing anything different so the change actually materializes.) Of course we have all been in that place at one point or another in our lives. And there are certainly many things that need changing in our professional world. The question is: are you dumping all kinds of negative energy around you that is completely useless in bringing about the changes you want? Or are you focusing all your positive energy on the things you actually want to bring about in your life?

If you want better working conditions, for example, is there something else you are afraid will come to an end, and are unwittingly refusing to let go? If you want to go back to school and get an advanced degree, are you so sad about something that might end that you are inadvertently holding on to that something?

New beginnings require new endings. Endings require closure. Closure comes when you let go. Only then can we live in the present, enjoy it, and be happy.

And since this is my first post for 2015… I wish you all many happy new beginnings all year long!

4 Comments
  • Maribel Pintado-Espiet
    Posted at 11:47h, 28 January Reply

    Negative energy… we have all come across those individuals who make it all about themselves… The client smells. The attorney is an ass. The court officer will not let me have my phone. The court will not let me park in the back… It is a lonely profession. Our ethics prevent us from doing too much sharing. Our spouses get a little tired of the stories we bring home. We are not the center piece of anyone’s working day. Thanks for what we do are rare items. And yet, just like any other human being, we need a little acknowledgement… Start with yourself. If we were less critical of ourselves, we would be more accepting of others, of ourselves. Every day we interpret we are in the flow of communication, verbal and non-verbal. Stress and criticism interrupt that flow. Practice centering and silence before you begin to interpret. While lining up your notebook, your pencils, your gear…. take just 30 seconds to close your eyes, breathe, and let it go. Be thankful for the gifts you have. Begin sharing it with those around you.

    • Janis Palma
      Posted at 19:48h, 03 June Reply

      Beautiful words, Maribel. Thank you for those thoughts!

  • David
    Posted at 15:04h, 31 January Reply

    Happy new year, Janis!

    It’s significant that you lead with a quote from the Dalai Lama. Another fundamental Buddhist teaching is that genuine happiness is an internal mental state independent of objective external conditions. That’s quite a mouthful, so it bears further elaboration. There are people — for example, in the entertainment business — who are smart, wealthy, attractive, popular, in good physical health, and yet utterly miserable. There are, at the other extreme end of the spectrum, cases of Tibetan Buddhist monks suffering years of unspeakable abuse at the hands of their captors, yet coming out virtually unscathed, to the astonishment of the incredulous torture-victim specialists who attended them. “Letting go,” abandoning “negative energy” and being happy in the present moment (regardless of its content) sound like simple formulas, but they require Practice with a capital P.

    This sort of robust happiness, at least theoretically, is available to us all, but there’s no free lunch. Sometimes, for example, the way forward is not obvious. Ditch this relationship, or keep working on it? Attribute your problems to someone else, or beat yourself up for your failings? Resign yourself to having to accept this or that circumstance, or keep struggling to change it? Of course the only one who can answer that, if anyone, is you. You try to listen to your innate wisdom, that inner voice of intuition and judgment you develop from experience, but sometimes the messages are not easily deciphered. What is “good” or “bad,” for me or for others?

    In Zen Buddhism they speak of the Relative and the Absolute. In the relative world there is hot and cold, up and down — negative and positive energy, if you like. Yet all phenomena are so impermanent and so thoroughly interdependent that they don’t really have any independent existence; they are void, or “Empty” — and this thing we call a Self is a prime example of a delusion that makes us unhappy. This underlying interconnectedness and unity of everything is what they call the Absolute. To my mind, the astounding teaching about Relative and the Absolute is that they are actually identical. The Absolute is brushing your teeth, taking out the garbage, putting up with overly verbose lawyers, laughing at a funny joke, crying when you’re sad. The Practice, so we’re told, is the practice of focusing attention on the present moment without judgment, and this training, repeated diligently for a long time, leads to a more equanimous, stable mind that sees clearly. The quintessential activity one uses to cultivate this skill is meditation. If we keep at it, we may have a shot at figuring out the best way to minimize suffering.

    Finally, what is the ultimate “letting go”? It’s letting go of your life itself, as we all eventually must. How do you prepare for that? This is a question, I think, that concerns us more as we age and our future becomes substantially shorter than our past. I for one do not want to be lying in hospice care with three days to live and wondering what happened.

    • Janis Palma
      Posted at 19:51h, 03 June Reply

      David… you should be one of our blog writers!!! That was totally inspired. Thank you!!!

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