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Endings and Beginnings

Paraphrasing my incredibly wise yoga instructor, Ulrika Engman, how you end something determines how you begin the next thing.

This was the theme at a New Year’s Day yoga workshop I attended at Calistoga’s “practically-perfect-in-every-way” Solage resort. The end of an inhalation determines the beginning of the exhalation, and so on. If you hurry out of a downward facing dog pose, you might rush into the next pose. Besides injuring yourself (worst case scenario), you lose the peace a well-paced yoga practice offers. On the contrary, the thoughtful ending of something allows the graceful transition into the next thing — no injuries, less stress, more positive growth.

I ended 2011 at a beautiful dinner party with friends new and old. First of all, I walked my “use it or lose it” talk by pulling out a little black dress that needed to start earning its maple hanger. I used some hair products that had been what I call “drawer-flowers”; not danced with in awhile. I didn’t over-indulge at the party and my husband and I went to bed at a reasonable hour. It all felt measured and mature without a touch of boring; in other words, I got all the sparkle with none of the hangover. That sane ending of 2011 enabled me to begin 2012 in the sunshine, under the palm trees, doing yoga, which is just where I wanted to be.

It wasn’t always like that. There were New Year’s Eves when I was popping the last of the See’s Nuts and Chews into my mouth at 11:58, rinsing out my mouth at 11:59 and declaring at midnight, “No more sugar ever!”

There were New Year’s Eves when I went to bed at sundown, turning my back on the old year and just wanting to move on to the next page of the calendar ASAP.

And there have been plenty of overly-perfectionistic expectations that led me to feel like a failure one week into January. At least, I would tell myself, I could begin again on my early February birthday, my own personal New Year’s Day do-over.

The professional organizing I’ve done over the last six years, along with all the books I’ve read and classes I’ve taken on organizing and productivity, have had everything to do with my ability to end things tidily and begin things with a good balance of hope and energy. The simple organizing habits of putting something back where it belongs or handling ones inbox one item at a time are microcosms of this bigger habit.

Take the organizing 101 tip of arriving to appointments a bit early. Think of how arriving some place five minutes early changes your experience, in contrast to being slightly late. Take a movie, for example; the entire experience changes. Maybe you don’t get your popcorn and you are preoccupied by a growling stomach for two hours. Maybe you miss the previews and you LOVE the previews. Maybe you miss the first five minutes of the feature and find out later that the actor Michael Fassbender was naked the entire first five minutes. Yes, I missed it.

I’ve read that Ernest Hemingway used to end his daily writing at a point in the project where he knew exactly what he was going to write next. That ending gave him an easy way to begin the next day, with energy and excitement. It’s a marvelous idea to leave something in the tank to inspire you on to the next phase.

Something is always ending and something is always beginning — a breath, a class, a relationship, a career, a life. Examining how we tend to end things and maybe shifting that a bit to make it cleaner, more conscious, more planned, perhaps, could lead to beginnings that are more energized, middles that are more sustained, and endings that fully satisfy.