Some things about life are episodic. They are in mine anyway. Three opportunity themes dominate my universe. I run into some important problem in the world I wind up figuring out solutions to every five to seven years. I wind up in charge of something every three to five years, and I encounter at least one new protégé to teach and transfer what I know to every two to three years. This has been happening to me for so long now I set my internal energy clocks to them. That’s my fate. I’ve accepted it.
Like all story arcs, these episodes have beginnings, middles and endings. Some are spectacular successes worthy of epic fables, some are spectacular disasters worthy of detailed after action analysis reports, some are mediocre on the outside but emotionally meaningful on the inside, and some are meaningless and best forgotten.
The more I ponder these episodes the more I see patterns. The most exciting is that opportunity really does come and knock repeatedly. It’s really cool. My natural curiosity and puzzle solving penchant combined, at this point, with decades of subject matter expertise experience, almost always causes these opportunities to blossom. They are wonderful adventures with interesting people.
Things do have endings. When it goes well, goals are reached with a smile. Levels of accomplishment are achieved. Key events that mark gateways happen. There’s celebration of the moment; honoring the junction. Sometimes it’s not us who declare the junctions. Sometimes it’s something out of our control. It could even be something unexpected and sinister. You have to honor these junctions too.
I’m really not very good at endings for the emotionally meaningful ones. They tend to linger like run on sentences. It’s because I’m a giver. I love to teach. I love to pass on what I know. I love to take care of my friends. There’s a basic character flaw among givers, we almost always wind up giving too much. I’ve done it all my life, over and over. It’s not an unaware process. At this point in my life I can clearly see the junctions when I hit the point of over commitment. Sometimes I pull back; but mostly I give anyway knowing there will be a price to be paid at the ending.
Regardless, the process of unwinding begins. I’ve done this over and over too. You get a little better at it over time. Maybe harsher as well. It is one of those cruel artifacts because you’ve seen it before and the angst is now accompanied by wisdom. Endings are pretty straight forward when it’s a work thing; the economics and missions are clearer; like chess pieces or math equations. It’s a bit more tricky when it’s a personal thing. Who ever wants to let go of the things that have emotional meaning to us?
There are signs when it ‘s time. You start to notice people that love you say the same thing hinting that change has arrived. Don’t be in denial of it. You need to listen when that happens. There’s always hesitation. It’s natural to fear letting go. It’s alright to not like being cruel to oneself. But it’s actually more cruel to yourself to keep hesitating when you already know what must happen. Don’t confuse your internal angst with being cruel to others. They’re probably already gone. And do give yourself the luxury of being sad about it. Honor your heart and the things that will have a permanent, if dormant, place in it for the rest of your life.
But here’s the thing. It’s part of the cycle. You cannot fly again unless you are free. You cannot give again unless you’ve created the capacity to do so. It’s the beginning of the process to recharge your batteries. Because just around the corner, you’re going to do it again. A new journey will appear. It always does. And the worst thing you can do for yourself when it arrives is be stuck in self pity about yesterday’s news when tomorrow comes.
Will I do it again? Will I embrace the next episode? Will I give again? Will I over commit again? Will I reach yet another ending and honor that moment when it comes? You bet I will. That’s the path to thriving. I hope you will too.
Originally published at medium.com