Closure suggests the shutting up, the boxing off — but completion? It offers a way to honour what has been and set the way forward with intention.
I was the Queen of walking away.
As each chapter of my life came to a close, for whatever reason, I had a tendency to be overwhelmed by all that had gone wrong — the mistakes, the disappointments, the let-downs. And the feelings of failure and embarrassment would threaten to overwhelm me.
But I was a tough cookie, as everyone kept telling me. There was no way I was going to let anyone see me crack. So I went for closure.
Shut it up. Box it in. File it all away in a dark corner of the attic of my brain, and burn the bridge that allowed access. Simple.
I did this so often as I was growing up, that when I look back now, I laugh. What did I think I was doing? Who was I trying to kid that I could just keep building, burning and rebuilding?
I had enjoyed and been shaped by some amazing experiences in my years. But rather than face the pain of the endings, rather than owning up to feeling sad and nervous and vulnerable as the time to say goodbye came, I just cut the ties — to each experience, to each person — and consigned the whole thing to long term, inaccessible storage.
High school friendships, relationships that had run their course, travelling experiences that had opened my eyes and my soul. Once their use-by date passed, that was it. No holding on for me. As far as I was concerned, it’s not like any of the people would miss my presence or connection. I just wasn’t that important.
I stumbled my way through my late teens, twenties and most of my thrities lie this. Scared to allow for an ongoing connection. I felt like it kept me safe. When I screwed up, when someone hurt me — I would just box it up and move on.
But this growing collection of boxes started crowding my brain, and worse, left me with an increasing feeling of disconnection and lack of purpose.
Life threw a curveball at me — a huge opportunity to pivot that I had not seen coming — and I realised that while I desperately wanted the new adventure, I had got to a point in my life where I did not want to run. I did not want to box it all up and start afresh. Again. So, what instead?
During my training as a Co-Active Coach, I had been introduced to the practice of completion. A moment of reflection, at the end of a course, when each person got to speak to their own experience and share what they had learnt and how it had impacted who they were.
This practice made me realise, for the first time, that there was an alternative to my usual system of closure. I could honour this unexpected ending and, with grace, celebrate all I had learnt along the way — mistakes and all.
It offered me the opportunity to review my past and current impact in my community, whilst at the same time asking me to move forward with even greater courage and leadership.
And it left me feeling more grounded. More connected — to all that I was and all that I was going to become.
The Cycle of Completion
As we start out into a new year, I am reminded again of how powerful it can be to sit down and take the time to honour the ending.
2016 was a tumultuous year, personally and globally. The temptation to box it up and seal it with hazard tape is real. But how about we try for completion instead?
In light of everything, what successes were there for you? What accomplishments? What wins? What moments of celebration?
How have they changed you, reshaped you, as you move forwards?
And what failures? What letdowns, breakdowns and losses?
At the end of the year, with the benefit of hindsight, what significance do they hold?
Where did your own leadership fail you? Where did you hide, or fail to act?
What have you learnt about yourself? How have you transformed?
As you move forwards, where do you need to up your game? What commitment do you need to give to the next stage?
What will you improve upon, so that there can be a wider, more positive, community impact? So that your actions and choices are connected to more than just ‘you’.
By taking this time to reflect and really think about these questions, I have been able to achieve what really does feel like completion to me.
It is a little sadder maybe, and it opens me up to being a lot more vulnerable — as I acknowledge the issues and areas for improvement — but it also allows for the warm glow of gratitude for all I have learnt, and a beautiful moment of connection to the past that has shaped me.
A nice change from the burnt bridges of old.