I bought a book for the children when they were little called Beginnings and Endings with Lifetimes in Between as a way to help me teach them about the fragility of life and what death means. I was doing therapeutic and narrative work with children at the time so it found its way into my tool kit there too. The simplicity, authenticity, respectful way that didn’t gloss over the realities that there are ends was helpful and opened up conversations about the nature of life and death. I wish there was a book like that for grownups, maybe that is one I might write?
Today marks the end of the financial year, which I have pretty much used for most of my working life as a marker to get business in order. Whether I have been working where budgets and staffing, reporting to members, shareholders or the public, it is a time and place to come to an account. In my personal life I have used it as a time to take stock as well. This EOFY I have used to get ready and draw a line in the sand as well. Buy tickets for travel – check – thanks to a good friend who did all the research and sorted that out for me. Publicly announce not taking on any more clients for my consulting business – check – uneventful and easy decision in the end. Get the first cohort started in my new venture and that business registered – check – that went down to the wire due to bureaucracy out of my control, but nearly there (phew). Discern about whether it is time to leave where I am living – check – I didn’t think I would have come to that decision by now and had decided by the end of the first quarter would be the new timeline to give me some more headspace. Interestingly this decision has been made in the last few days and you always know it is the right decision when you feel at peace about it. The EOFY has proven itself to be useful constraint it has always been to me and once again a reminder there are beginnings and endings and lifetimes in-between.
I love constraints, they really help to bring focus and freedom. Freedom for creativity and to look for ways to fuse and bind together what can be bound and in doing that you are able to discern what can be held loosely. In making and acting on decisions within the constraints, you are know intuitively and sometimes quite explicitly as well where you are going beyond the means of that boundary. The vows we make to ourselves and with others are there for the purpose to hold on tightly to what is in and what is out. This is not a black and white world view. It is about respecting and dignifying boundaries as ways of supporting discernment and living more freely, not less. There was quite a reaction last week to my blog, as far as I could tell, the reaction was predominately that was about the use of the word betrayal. Betrayal is all about a shared agreement of a constraint and one party leaving that shared understanding and deliberately, with no regard and carelessly stepping out beyond that agreed constraint and there are consequences for all. This is the lifetime in between, that space that happens between the beginning and the ending. We can betray ourselves as well as others, when we don’t give ourselves the honour and respect of our own sacred contract with ourselves and don’t accept the constraints as gift to go deeper, to explore what is possible within a confine. My constraint to live within the boundary of my beginning and end, to live fully, in the lifetime in between, is an open invitation to exactly explore what is at my disposal and what is in and what is out.
I set the EOFY to make a decision about moving from where I live in the coming year or not. The whole discernment process has been like the old joke about the man drowning, and a life saver appears and he says to the life saver, thanks but I don’t need your help, I have God. Then a boat comes out to help in as he is in more distress and he says to the captain, thanks but I don’t need your help, I have God. And then the rescue helicopter arrives and throws down the ladder as the seas are so choppy that is the only way for him to get out of the water, he says thanks but I don’t need your help, I have God. Then the man drowns and arrives at the Pearly Gates and he says to St Peter – why did God let me drown? St Peter says – but we sent you a life saver, a boat and a helicopter! I have been sent many devices and pieces of information to help me make a decision, yet my prevarications were still entertaining me. Then finally the helicopter was so loud and making the water even more choppy by hovering above me. In the end it was actually quite easy to grab the ladder and be hauled out of the water. It is an act of co-creation and co-salvation when we work with the elements and goodness, the metaphorical lifesavers, boats and helicopters and take the hand of those who want to help us out of the choppy sea. For me I have been and am surrounded by witnesses, who also point out there the helicopter coming and its role in getting me to leave the water. It is our job to discern and to cooperate with the offers around us that will help. I remain grateful to those throwing life lines, sending boats and throwing down ladders.
Putting the date of the EOFY as the moment when decisions need to arrive continues to be a tool to help me get out of the water and not roll up for a conversation with St Peter. I have set up a few questions of discernment for the year ahead and it is inevitable more sparks will fly as I enter the new year and take stock about what can earn compound interest, what needs to be expended and how I can repay myself from the past for the new in-between times that now have arrived. The spark of realisation that flew to me was recognising for the first time the book I mentioned at the start of this post has plurals in its title. There is more than one beginning, more than one end and more than one lifetime.