When things don't end well
Before you read any further, I want to make one thing clear. I am not a Trump supporter. I have very strong feelings about how he abused his power. But I do like to try and put myself in other people’s shoes on occasion. I try to imagine what they are thinking or feeling. And surprisingly, I have been able to muster a little bit of empathy for him. A little.
I’ve been thinking about endings this week. I’ve often read, taught and written about ending well. I’ve thought about my legacy. I’m not alone. Over 25 million copies of The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People have been sold. You may know that one of the seven habits is ‘begin with the end in mind.’ I think legacy and beginning with the end in mind are worthwhile considerations.
So I found myself thinking about Trump’s term and how it has ended. We can probably all agree, regardless of political leanings, that the Presidency didn’t end the way anyone wanted it to end. Trump made it clear he didn't want it to end. The people voted that he was done.
And I've been thinking about a closer to home ending this week. A dear friend of mine is dealing with the tragic death of her son. It’s not a good ending. It’s painful. This type of loss is devastating and compounded by pandemic restrictions. It’s layers of grief. It’s not what anyone wanted.
And as I’ve thought about endings, I’ve thought about some of the painful endings I’ve experienced. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a romantic relationship end, but I can recall some really intense, drawn-out break-ups. It took me two years to finally sever the ties to my first love. I’ve had friendships breakdown and blow up. I’ve had them drift as well. I’ve been fired (once). I’ve quit. I’ve run away. I’ve dodged and avoided.
The most painful ending for me was when my husband got fired from the church he was leading. It was downright nasty. And devastating for our family. We lost our community, work, friendships and future all at once. In religious communities, you are in or out. The hurt we experienced and the hurt we caused, in turn, left us wounded for years. It did not end well. Wrapped up in that hurt were feelings of betrayal. I am always thankful for the advice someone gave me that betrayal can takes years to heal from.
We've all had to reconcile an ending that didn't unfold the way we hoped it would, even if we began with the end in mind. The truth is that we don’t always want to have ending conversations upfront. We don’t like to think about endings. If we did - everyone would have a prenuptial agreement. We prefer to be optimistic about our relationships and commitments. We want the happily ever after. We enter into things believing they will work out. Most of us are risk-averse, and we don’t go into something unless we are convinced it will go well. It's always easier to start something than to end it.
It’s not always possible for things to end well. Sometimes you have no control over how something ends. You get fired, there is an accident, you get sick, someone you love gets sick, people we care about die and a pandemic changes everything.
We talk about messy middles. Well, endings can be messy as well. They can break us open. And in that breaking open we can eventually find new beginnings. Sometimes in the midst of your own pain and hurt, you retaliate or make choices that you might not have made when you felt healthy and supported in your life.