“What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning.” – T.S. Eliot
I’ve always focused on endings. As a little girl, I couldn’t wait to flip to the last paragraphs of book I enjoyed. I tried to resist the temptation, but midway through, I snuck a glance at the last lines, unable to curb my anticipation. This watermark of my childhood carries through to present day. I hold onto the endings with an iron grip. I’ve revisited closed chapters in my life – a legal career left behind, a move away from my childhood state, Texas and the ending that’s defined much of my thirties and midlife, the loss of my father.
This past week brought a less dramatic ending. My daughter finished her last day of 4th grade and is now officially a 5th grader. This swallows me. I watch the milestones pass in the rearview mirror, clutching tight to what I know about my daughter, but realize these endings open up to beginnings. It is such an undeniable privilege to pay attention and bear witness, isn’t it? My little girl is sledding her way through the curves of these interesting pre-teen years, trying to unravel the Rubik’s Cube of her life. Every single day there are new opinions and questions, some which involve simple answers, others are more complicated in scope. But as the innocence gives way to knowledge, I’ve shifted my gaze toward all the beginnings she’ll encounter and I’ve also paid more attention to places of welcome in my life – a carpet of yellow flowers as I run outside, the embrace of my husband, a discovery of a new idea or place where I learn something about myself, every single entry through a door, whether it’s at our home or a public place or the unfamiliar. These are places of opportunity, promise, presence and yes, welcome. Beginnings represent the most palpable way to shape our days, mold what works and discard what doesn’t. Nothing is quite hardened; the cement is still fresh enough where you have the opportunity to carve out your initials and make an imprint of your choosing.
My ambivalence in the past toward beginnings confront what appears to be a thread I’ve often talked about in this space. I fear uncertainty and beginnings are just that – the unfolding is mysterious and inaccessible. Only time reveals its ultimate course. Part of the revealing may present treacherous terrain and the anticipation of what if’s blur the present moment. It’s offered a place where I’ve tinkered with my thinking, understanding the privilege of participating and witnessing a beginning. I am keenly aware of specific places I’ve received a welcome, even if it’s one I don’t necessarily enjoy. Perhaps it’s a turn toward sinking into the present, learning not to hurry and rush toward finishing the experience, but instead massaging each moment as my own and learning to appreciate what is, instead of barreling toward an outcome.
I admit it may take some time to embrace this new epiphany as a natural extension of my life – but I suspect I am making some small strides. This past week I settled into a book, turning the pages one by one, and didn’t move to read the end.
I relished the beginning and gazed over at my daughter, knowing that resisting the conclusion carried a deeper meaning – a new kind of ending gave way to embracing a different kind of welcome.