There is something about Endings
There’s something about endings that puts my teeth on edge. Just like someone running their fingernails down a chalkboard, the mere sound of the phrase “the end” makes my insides squirm and kicks my fight or flight instinct into overdrive. Except that when it comes to endings, I have consistently avoided the fighting in favour of the flighting.
When I talk about endings here, I mean just about any ending. All the endings that life is made up of – the ending of a seminal part of our life, the ending of passion, the ending of projects, and, of course, the ending of a story. Any kind of occasion that calls for “timely and well-planned leave-taking”, is for me also the occasion where I make a mad dash for the exit, steeling myself to not look back, leaving confusion and a definite sense of unfinished business in my wake.
Take writing for instance. I can think back to many writing moments, where I have spent eons composing the right opening line – that sentence or paragraph that will hook in anyone, dead or alive – just to then rush headlong towards the end, freaking out along the way that I have no idea of where I am going, becoming impatient, and finally, throwing down the “good enough ending” and getting the hell out of there.
But I’m probably too harsh on myself. I am not alone in my phobia of endings. The rush from endings is somewhat of a Western affliction, where our desire to move into the next moment long before the present moment is done is something of a national pastime. Endings are always on our busy minds: when things are bad, we look forward to the end of whatever we are experiencing; when things are good we enjoy, but with fingers crossed behind our backs, knowing that this wonderful moment/experience will also come to end.
Our eagerness to finish whatever we are doing – so that we can lurch into the next thing on our list, and just maybe feel a sense of achievement by the end of the day – has inspired a whole range of “slow” movements designed to counter our sprint to the finishing line. There is the slow food movement (how to slow down cooking, eating and create peace and harmony in the kitchen!), the slow reading movement (no more speed reading your way through the top 100 list of “must- read -books”), and, of course, the slow writing movement.
“Slow writing”, author Louise De Salvo tells us, is an art form that the Henry Miller and Virginia Woolf types knew about – no fast-paced churning out of one best seller after another on account of public demand and publishers’ fiscal priorities: no, these authors simply took their time, drafted and re-drafted, not needing to care in the least whether they were prolific enough to be “trending” on some hyper-real “platform” constantly renewing itself with jam-packed content.
So, if we slow down our writing (or cooking, reading, living), does that mean we are more likely to arrive (aided by time and the virtue of patience) at a perfect ending, the kind of ending that ties things up neatly, satisfyingly, like a good old Hollywood movie? Does it mean we will be able to draw a line in the sand and leave that “bit behind”? Is the fact that it has taken me three months to write this blog (not because I was trialling slow writing, but because I was too anxious to compose my ending) mean that it has an ultimately better chance at longevity?
At the end of “The Warden”, Anthony Trollope, writes “Our tale is now done, and it only remains to us to collect the scattered threads of our little story, and tie them into a seemly knot.” The great thing about knots is that they can always be untied again. So maybe the great thing about endings is that they are not all-powerful and final, but suggest the possibility of another beginning, another way of tying up the knot. And who knows, maybe three months is just the perfect amount of time to find the perfect way of tying up yet another ending.