I have always hated endings. No matter how excited I am about what is to follow, I dislike the sense of finality when packing up a phase of my life. And despite having had plenty of practice, today was no different. Once again I left my packing to the last-minute and did it with a heavy heart.
Mid-way through my life I have packed up, closed out, finished off more phases than many of my elders and at least as many as my more happy-go-lucky juniors in order to move on to new beginnings. There have been obvious endings: moving from junior to senior school and then from university programmes to working life. Add to that there was a major “permanent” move back in 2000 when I swapped Belgium for the UK which involved packing up a life in the space of two weeks.
A desk was packed up definitively in 2003 as I turned my back on a PR and marketing career to move to a new profession. Between 2003 and today there have been a further two new employers and three new homes. A six-month secondment to Vienna in 2008 meant an arrival in a new law firm, city and country, with the accompanying goodbyes and packing up at the end of my time in Austria.
Most of the endings nuzzled up to happy beginnings so emotions were torn between joy and sadness in equal measure. Other endings have been cruel realities that I am having to integrate into my life even though they may have come too soon, like the shift from daughter to daughter/carer as my mum fell in and died and recently with the loss of my father an end to being a child altogether.
With all those endings and beginnings you would think that I would be an expert in dealing with the process and emotions. You would think that I would know about packing light and quickly, about having contact details jotted down before handing in the blackberry or switch off the work email… But you would be wrong, as today’s ending has once again proved.
At the start of 2010 I moved to Paris to do a job that would excite me as much as my first proper one had and to work with one of best teams I have ever known. It was going to be a three-year assignment but this week I have been packing up my temporary Parisian home and tidying my desk again. However, this time is different to all the previous endings. This one will be followed by an interlude, which in my case will literally be time to play.
A decision in early February was supposed to trigger an ending but inadvertently instigated this interlude and what should be the beginning of a major mind shift and new way of living.
The demanding hours combined with my nature and chronic pain had pushed my body to breaking point. So I did the sensible thing: I stopped before my body stopped me. Well, I tried. In response to my letter resignation, I was offered what I as a generation X girl would never have thought to ask for: four months off work and the option to return on a part-time basis. I was astounded to have been handed on a plate an arrangement that I would have dismissed as unattainable, even in my wildest dreams.
After several weeks of considering my options, I accepted. Although my heart wanted to move to part-time working immediately, I realised that my body needed complete time out to get back to a baseline. More significantly, I was aware that going cold turkey from work for four months and returning on a part-time basis would force me to face down some of my demons: fear of letting go; dread of doing nothing; difficulties drawing boundaries; an inability to say “no” and mean it; and my destructive perfectionism.
Today I start my interlude and I am returning to Mr M and London. So once again, I am packing up. However the packing is as far the comparison with previous endings goes. In this case, I shall spend four months doing nothing of use (which is absolutely terrifying for a Duracell rabbit that has not stopped in 25 years) and a lot for fun (which will hopefully ease the terror). The next months will include many relaxing, creative and restorative activities* as well as a lot of cups of tea drank slowly and gentle strolls in London’s parks.
So today’s ending is, despite the heavy heart and packing, one to celebrate: it is the start of an interlude at home in Greenwich with my husband before returning to Paris, my job and colleagues and the beginning of what should be a healthier and happier way of life. It is a terrifying and challenging prospect and at the same time one of great hope and opportunity!
* Check back regularly to read about my play-time.