find more This might sound a little strange, but one of the things I’ve learned over the years is that modern western culture (and middle-class American culture in particular) lacks ceremonies and rituals. We don’t give ourselves opportunities to mourn the end of something before we begin something new. We’re actually encouraged to move through it and get over it.
Here’s where we’re not nearly as developed as what we consider primitive or ancient cultures. They celebrated every life transition. They recognized the value of celebrating endings so that they can have healthy beginnings.
Let me put this into context for today’s Western culture. When you get divorced or breakup somebody who meant a lot to you, your friends often suggest that you need to “get back out there.” They don’t want you to spend time grieving the end of a relationship, of intimacy, and of a shared future. What most don’t realize is that those are big things. Glossing over them by rushing into a series of dates or parties doesn’t allow you to fully process what you lost, to understand your role in it, and to move forward with a clean slate.
Last week I listened to a podcast with a guy named Gregg Braden. He’s not somebody who normally resonates with me but that day he did. He was talking about how at the end of a geological or social cycle (such as climate or economics) we need to mourn the passing of the old way so that we can move on to what is next. We can’t hold on the way we always did things because that way won’t work anymore.
I’ve noticed this in my own life. The things I’ve done in the past that have worked don’t work anymore — at least not nearly as effectively. The world has changed and so have I (fortunately). I need to adapt to the new world and to the new me. But I haven’t allowed myself to mourn and release (and releasing is the key part here) the way things used to be so that I can open myself in healthy ways to the way things are and will be.
I didn’t realize it, but that’s exactly what the world or Universe has been trying to tell me to do, with a sprained wrist, cracked radiator, and hyper-extended knee. I needed to take a deep breath, and write a eulogy to the way things used to be. I used to be able to make great money and find marketing and advertising work easily, but that hasn’t happened in years. I just steadfastly refused to accept that.
Last week I let go of the way things used to be. Things had been predictable and comfortable even when it wasn’t comfortable. It felt safe because that’s the way things had always been, or at least for most of my adult life. But they were never going to be that way again. And I needed to accept that. It took a day or two or three or… well, most of the week, but eventually, I got through it. After all, like a lot of people I had survived countless moves, the death of my father, the end of my marriage, the end of several relationships, the death of friends, and the endings of several jobs.
So I knew I could do this, and you can too. You can get through anything, no matter how devastating, if you want and choose to. It just might take a little bit of time, and a ceremony to release it.