Why does everything need to end?
There I go pedalling in the early morning half darkness through the empty streets of Berlin. It’s 5:30am and I am leaving the flat of a man that I have grown quite fond of. He’s so sleepy that there is no chance for a proper goodbye. It makes me feel better that he’s only semi-conscious so that I won’t have to deal with my own goodbye.
I pedal fast, I know the route now and I catch sight of those early morning wanderers heading home and smile at the smell of freshly baked bread at every corner. As I cross the river, I nearly cry at how beautifully raw the city looks in the pre-dawn glow. I park my bike and sneak in to my apartment and with the stealth of a panther, I sneak back out with my worldly possessions. I’m not going to let this city say goodbye to me, at least not whilst it can see me.
As I arrived in the dead of the night months ago, I leave in the break of the dawn. I find a lady named Martina who will be my companion for the next five hours and she drives me out to the countryside. When we soon reach the city limits, the empty fields wave ominously towards me. I’m told they mark the strip of death where former east met west. Am I about to die?
Well yes, if only I would let it happen.
I don’t let it happen. I don’t let myself think about everything that just ended; me before Berlin, me before this guy, me before. The feelings want to race through me but I stop them. I know the pain they will bring if I let them take on their own life. I probably should have just done it because eventually they got stuck in the base of my skull where they beat angrily with no place to go. I resist kicking and screaming, I don’t want to face death this time, I don’t want to face the all too familiar confusion and the sadness of another ending.
Instead I head to the middle of Germany to quickly face a new beginning. But I soon realise that this particular distraction could be the worst possible thing for my ego to take. I’ve been caught out with nowhere to escape, I’m attending a series of workshops and councils where we will be talking about the stories in our lives (and apparently in our deaths too). Not only do I want to ignore the fact that I am no longer the same as I was 3days ago, let alone 3months ago, I certainly don’t need to open the book on all the half-formed and poorly executed endings in my life.
The first way we learn how to respond to an obstacle, is the thing we remember. I remember the first time I experienced the feeling of loss. I was six years old, we moved house and I left Lois behind. She was my best friend, gymnastics buddy and co-author of our legendary but unoriginally titled game ‘Banks’. I don’t remember being told that my world was going to be completely turned on its head. I was so unprepared that I cried for three days until the weeping six year old was unceremoniously told that I had grieved enough now.
I learnt to deal with this ending by burying it deep enough for it to be out of sight, like radioactive waste, it would be fine as long as it was never exposed again. It was remarkably effective. So much so, that I became almost addicted to new beginnings because I wanted to prove that I was bigger than the endings.
But something is different now. In the heartland of Germany I’m looking into the woods and see that there is life and death everywhere, simultaneously coexisting. I don’t hear the leaves screaming or the roots getting angry, there is no pain anywhere. Nature bows down and graciously receives the changes of the seasons. It knows that in surrendering the old to the soil, it will surely come back evolved and more beautiful than before.
There is only life because there is death. There is only growth because we allow things to die in order to be reborn into something different, something that has evolved. The caterpillar literally melts down in its cocoon, only to come out looking completely different. It contains the same DNA but it morphs and reforms into something else. Just like nature, we are always becoming.
As the post-Berlin sadness catches up with me I have that phrase rolling around my head. We are always becoming. What am I becoming I wonder? I am not the same person that left even if the same structures are in place when I return. I want to quickly bypass the ending and replace it with a new beginning.
But this time I’m trying to be gracious and accept this ending, maybe even get to know it. I sit in the threshold between what I was and what I will be in the next iteration. And it’s ok if there is no clarity and no spotlight showing me the way. I’m not the six year girl anymore and I’ve outgrown the confusion in the old story.
Now as I see it, the ending is a before-the-dawn-of-time gift. It is chance to grow and mature through life. We can either ignore death or look at it square in the eye and thank it for wanting us to be more than we are now.
If we take the first option, be sure that it won’t go away. It’ll bury itself in a part of you that you have no control of and it will get in the way of almost every aspect of your life. Endings aren’t about the forgetting of something. They are about the celebration of the gifts of what has been and the acceptance that in this form and in this way, things won’t be the same again. It’s not to say, like the butterfly, that what was won’t emerge in another more beautiful and richer way.