The Light at the End of the Year

How does your year end? Hurtling itself over the finish line with whoops and streaming ribbons? Crawling, tired and dazed, in poorly fitting clothes? Sauntering perhaps, but needing to remind itself once again what year it actually was?

In any event, the year moves on, tipping its hat or taking a swing at the mile markers along the way. I tend to ignore the best-of and worst-of points-of-interest. Ranking things feels impossible. What was the best book or the best movie or the best full moon? I don’t know. In my rankings, most everything comes to a tie.

But there is a end-of-the-year signpost I’ll take a moment to acknowledge. In fact, I’ll stop at this particular signpost, catch my breath, and take in the view. The view shows valleys of melancholy and cliffs of heartbreak, it’s true. But pretending it isn’t here doesn’t feel like an option.

What things and people are not with us this time around? Who and what have we said goodbye to?

I’ve witnessed others say goodbye to loved ones this year. There’s something final and terrible about moving into that first year in which the person you loved will never have existed. Do you know what I mean?

But there are other types of losses. Friendship is one. I think I’m saying goodbye to a friendship I’d cherished. In our culture we more easily acknowledge the loss of a romantic relationship but it’s important to honor the passing of friendships too. They can also break our hearts. And pets are achingly hard to lose. Someone I know had to give up her beloved dog. Now, this doggo came to live with my family and me, so she’s our gain, but our gain was another’s loss. Her mama grieved even though we stay in touch and I send pictures.

Then there’s the loss of proximity. People we like move away. The friendship remains, but who knows when we’ll see them again?

Of course, there’s the loss of things, favorite items, sentimental objects, things we regret breaking or misplacing.

And we may lose our health, our stability, our faith. We can gain these back, but they’ll be different. A few years back I lost a certain view of myself. It was shockingly painful and though I’ve learned from the experience, I can’t say I’m over it.

This year I repeatedly lost my patience and my temper. Luckily they are things we can get back, but I’d like to lose them less.

But as we know, loss is part of life. Which doesn’t make it any easier, I know. I’m not here to argue about the merits of loss or give advice in dealing with it.

Loss can be devastating. It can be liberating. It can be a host of things. I’m not here to tell you you’ll learn and grow from the experience.

I’m here only to honor it, to acknowledge it, to light the virtual candle and give you a virtual hug. We’re standing at this marker of the end of the year, looking over what we’re leaving behind.

We’re still here. And that’s a good thing.



Thanks for reading.

If you’d like to share something you’re leaving behind in 2019, that’d be lovely. But it’s more than fair enough if you’d rather keep it to yourself.

5 thoughts on “The Light at the End of the Year

  1. This year, I lost the marrow-deep ache of the people and relationships (or, as it turns out, imagined relationships) I lost in 2018. That sounds like a good thing, but it’s a sad loss. The intensity of the pain those losses caused was a tribute to their importance to me. The scars over those wounds feel like a distancing from my living emotions. The fresh pain was difficult to live with, but contained the essence of what I had enjoyed to the depths of my soul. Now, even the living pain is only a memory. Thanks for this post, and for the opportunity to talk about the cruelty of healing. ❤

    1. Oh goodness. I am sorry you’ve experienced such a loss and pain. But I am glad for some healing, though, yes, it hurts. Thank you for participating in this conversation. Glad you’re here.

  2. This is a really thoughtful (in the sense particularly of “thought-y”) essay. Thanks for posting it.

    In 2019, we said good-bye to our house of 18 years… and with it, to a LOT of “stuff” we finally realized there was no point in hanging onto any longer: books (eek!), favorite but no longer sustainably wearable clothes, posters from long-ago college walls, that sort of thing.

    2020 is gonna be a transitional year for me, for sure, thanks to pending retirement and plans — knock on wood — for a months-long trip with The Missus to Europe.

    I’m trying, and mostly succeeding, to focus on the ways that no longer having some precious things from my past simply makes way for precious things yet to come. Coincidentally, today I re-read a favorite essay, a chapter from a favorite book of years ago — an essay on how to think about DOORS, of all things. It gets into many of the questions you’ve asked here. Yes, it’s Zen-y — not that I object to that — but it’s full of challenges at pivotal moments of life change, even of simple New-Year’s-type change, e.g.:

    “Do not think of doors as obstacles to whatever is on the other side. Practice opening them magnanimously and closing them with care. Through the mundane activity of entering or leaving a doorway, you can make a commitment to being either inside or outside of something larger than yourself… As you walk from room to room in your own home, try to really experience the transition of traveling from one place to another. Notice the differences between motion and stillness. Sense how you relate to various enclosures and open spaces. Feel the differences between entering and leaving, if there are differences. Contemplate the thoughts that become caught between places, in the doorways themselves, and think of the people who have walked these paths before you. While you’re thinking of others, the doors of your household begin to become the gates of compassion.”

    Anyhow, thanks so much for the year-end meditation. It felt just right to me today.

    (And maybe needless to add: Happy New Year!)

    1. First, I have to tell you that this is an odd coincidence because I’ve been preparing a door related post (somewhat inspired by this Now you’ve given me more to think about!

      This transition time must be a mix of feelings. But congratulations (again if I’ve said it already) on the retirement! And I hope you get to go on that trip. You’d have such a wonderful experience.

      May the transitions of 2020 be kind to us all.

      1. You know how on Instagram people hashtag their photos — sometimes wildly/sarcastically but also meaningfully? The first time I posted a photo of a door there I went to tag it “#door” or “#doors”… and the app suggested “#doorsofinstagram” as another popular alternative. That was my first exposure to the “#______sofinstagram” convention… it works everywhere!

        But I do love door pictures.

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