Oh, this month. That’s why I named it my Month of Mindfulness. I’m navigating it carefully, mindfully, intentionally. And it’s working. But it’s a lot to manage.
I just did a final massage on a client who had a standing appointment every other week for 16 years. She cried. She said, “I’m sorry; it’s not about me.”
“It is about you too,” I told her, “and I”m sorry you’re hurting.”
I had interactions like that every day this month. Some much more casual, many much less emotional, but all tinged with a bit of guilt — a realization that my career change creates ripples that impact 142 people who have relied on me as their massage therapist.
Going into this month, I knew about the one big change: I’m deciding to end my career of 25 years and say goodbye to longtime clients.
But also this month:
- One of my oldest friends was abruptly fired from the nonprofit she created 20 years ago. Her name is synonymous with the organization. She didn’t see it coming. Nobody saw it coming, with the exception of the three board members who handed down the decision, leaving all of us wondering what information they have, what concerns they feel they must leave unvoiced, what factors led them to this drastic and painful decision.
- I’ve gotten part of my income from freelance work I’ve done for that friend and her organization, and it was an integral part of my plan for the new career I’ll start next week. But that door just closed for me.
- Another of my oldest friends — a stay-at-home writer and daytime yoga-class-taker — accepted a teaching job that will put her in the classroom, starting today, ending her freelancing lifestyle.
- My recovery community is reeling from strained relationships and divided loyalties. The founder of our movement is the subject of a life- and career-altering investigation into sexual misconduct. It remains to be seen whether he’ll retain his empowerment as a meditation teacher when the scandal settles. It remains to be seen whether our recovery movement will retain its name, use this leader’s book, or even exist in its current form.
- The feral cat my husband and I have fed every day for six years stopped showing up for feedings a week ago. We continue to visit every day, shaking her food bag and calling her. We don’t know how long to look for her before we decide she’s gone. We named her Peekaboo. She lives (lived?) behind a restaurant, in the dense thickets around the parking lot. We’ve only ever seen glimpses of her, except for the few days we had her trapped and held captive for her spay surgery and recovery. She is a feral. She does not want to have humans for friends. But over the years, she’s come to know us, know our cars, and brave the vulnerability of a small clearing where we leave her food every day. We have a unique bond.
My mediation this month has taken on a specific theme: Right now, it’s like this. Everything that starts will someday end. Every ending is also a beginning.
That embattled meditation teacher used to tell his students, during the wee early days of the movement he founded, “This community is already broken.”
He wasn’t pointing out inherent flaws in the community or the movement, although those are inevitable too.
Rather, he was reminding his students that every beginning someday leads to an ending.
He wrote some guided meditations that I count among my favorites. They are the ones that contain the reminder, “Right now, it’s like this.”
Guilt is a natural feeling, and we can feel it without surrendering to it. We need never apologize for endings. They are an integral part of life.
When we work in mindfulness and meditation to ease our suffering and lead happier lives, we aren’t harboring expectations that our practice will excuse us from future losses and endings and goodbyes. That is impossible.
Instead, we practice to free ourselves from the emotional pain we feel when we wish it were different. Part of our practice is to remind ourselves that everything will change or end. After 25 years, this part of my career is ending. The part I’ll start next week will end someday too. Life can offer nothing else.
Here are the healing phrases that served me well this month in my meditation and my brief mindfulness check-ins:
Right now, it’s like this.
Everything will someday end.
Every ending is also a beginning.