Endings are beginnings in disguise. Even the saddest ending can be a beautiful beginning. Endings create space for new beginnings. Notions like this fill the magnet spinners at Whole Foods and Barnes & Noble. In fact, even I, who truly loves a good, inspirational quote, feels like saying “blah blah blah” to quotes like these around Labor Day. While it’s nice to have an extra day in a weekend, to be honest, it rarely feels much like a holiday. At our house, at least, the energy is opposite the bubbly happiness of other holidays. Rather, the day leaves us feeling slightly blue. On Labor Day, summer, our favorite time of year, comes to an end and we mourn a little bit.
But mixed with this mourning is an element of excitement. Labor Day is actually a perfect example of the fact that every sad ending is also a bright and shiny beginning. If you cohabitate with kids, Labor Day marks the start of a new school year. The possibilities are limitless and almost make up for the sorrowful farewell to lazy mornings and sunny afternoons. The hope is palpable: this is the year I’ll get … you name it! Great grades! New friends! A boyfriend! A part in the school show! Onto the varsity team!
Even if you don’t live with children, the day after Labor Day feels like a beginning. The pace at offices everywhere becomes brisker. New projects put on hold for the summer can begin at last. Even before the weather turns, windows in malls and magazine ads promise new styles and suggest fun additions to your wardrobe. Businesses like mine that get sleepy during the summer months brighten and bustle as clients and students return invigorated and enthused to be back from their summer adventures.
Labor Day has a lot to teach us about holding on and letting go. It’s tempting to cling desperately to things that we love. Days on the beach. Lots of togetherness. A slower pace. Time off work. It would be perfectly natural to hold onto these with a death grip. But, this is rarely a good idea. Better to hold them lightly, focusing instead on the gratitude that fills your heart to be able to enjoy them.
After all, while it would totally be possible to spend our free time at the beach during the school year, if we did so, we’d be exhausted. Also, we’d miss a ton of fun around here. Football games (lovingly referred to as marching band games at our house). Planting mums. Having dinner under the twinkle lights on our patio (it’s too light at dinner time in the summer). Leaf piles. Crew regattas. Picking pumpkins.
In short, you’ve got to be willing to loosen your grip on life’s gifts. Otherwise, you won’t be able to open your hands to receive the rest of life’s gifts.
Yoga also has a lot to teach us about holding on and letting go — with the added benefit of not having to wait a whole year between opportunities for practice. When I was new to yoga, there were things I couldn’t do. Lots of them. A push up. A headstand. Anything requiring my shoulders to move. Yet, month after month or year after year, my teacher would say, ”Why aren’t you doing that?” “I can’t,” I’d reply. “Of course you can,” she’d say. And I’d do it. The only thing holding me back, it turns out, was my belief that I couldn’t do it. I had to let that belief come to an end in order to allow my new pose to begin.
More times than I’d like to admit, a posture that I’ve been doing for years has disappeared on me. Sometimes, this is due to an injury. Sometimes, fear. Sometimes, the reason remains a mystery to this day. When I resist these “disappearances” by clinging to the notion that I (dammit) can do the posture, it makes things worse. When I acquiesce and walk the path that the practice (or my body or fate or …) has chosen for me, I learn more than I ever would have if I hadn’t had to relearn the posture. While it’s no fun, each time this happens the posture comes back better and stronger than before.
On and off my mat, I have learned that I must experience endings in order to receive beginnings. I suspect the same is true for you. Perhaps remembering this will help you and me both to wave a fond (very, very fond) farewell to summer. And to turn to face fall with open hands and an open heart. This is the best way to guarantee that we won’t miss a single gift this new season has in store for us.