We All Need Closure

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This past Saturday, my dear friend Miguel and I walked through the streets of Soho soaking in the sunshine and the warmth. We spoke about our joys, our big plans for the future, our lives. Most importantly, we spoke about closure. Every time the seasons change, every time a month ends and a new one begins, I consciously examine what stories I need to let go of and which ones I need to invest in fully fleshing out. Endings are hard. They are also inevitable. So how can we gracefully write an ending to a chapter?  How do we get closure?

In my mind and my heart, I’ve always viewed closure as something that needs acknowledgement from both sides of the situation. A large part of that comes from my want to be seen and heard, to be taken seriously, to have my internal life validated by someone outside of myself. That’s great when you can get it.  But, most of the time, you won’t. Most of the time, closure is something that we have to create for ourselves by ourselves.

It’s a heartbreaking realization. Whoever or whatever the other side is probably doesn’t want to or won’t even consider participating in a conversation that amounts to closure for you. It makes sense. Why would they willing put themselves in a position of vulnerability? Why would they willing take part in an interaction where they could be hurt, end up feeling guilty, second guess their decisions, and the most painful of all, have to take in the hurt of another person that they willingly or perhaps unknowingly caused? I can think of many other ways I would rather spend my time. They are not bad people for opting out just like you are not a bad person for wanting a conclusion. Truthfully, we’ve all been on both sides of this equation. We’ve been the person who just wants to say why we were hurt, how we were wronged, the person who wants to be seen and heard and acknowledged one last time.  We’ve also been the person who gets annoyed or ignores all attempts at conversation and connection. No matter what side of the situation we sit on, it hurts. If ending are constantly happening but two-sided closure is not, how can we create a sense of finality within our own hearts? How can we find closure?

Though I am a yogi, non-attachment is hard for me.  I care the most. I cannot easily turn of the part of me off that fully invests my heart and mind into the things and people I care about.  It is who I am, and honestly, I wouldn’t want to care less. Things would probably be easier, endings would hurt less, but the joy would also be less. I come back to the idea of non-attachment every time I write another ending. Endings are hard  because it’s hard to “let go”. It wasn’t until very recently that I understood the way I was framing letting go was hindering me from doing just that. Letting go meant releasing the significance of the history.  It meant deleting the memories and the ways in which I had grown and changed and evolved. It meant pretending that the situation didn’t exist. But what if it could mean something different? What if letting go does not denying the significance all the memories but rather does not allow the present to be swallowed up in the past. What if it means honoring the past but not living there? What if it means acknowledging that you have done what you can and now it is time to offer it up to the universe? Letting go can simply mean release the other party from your expectations. Hard though it is to admit that to ourselves, when our expectations of the situation or person do not align with reality, that’s when the hurt sinks in.   

The best practice I have when I find myself unwilling to release my expectations, and subsequently sprinting down the dark tunnel of hurt feelings and strong attachments every my expectations are not met, is it combat that very small perspective with a big dose of compassion. Whoever it whatever is on the other side has complexities that are just as big as mine. They are working through those complexities in their own way. It’s understandably nearsighted to see my personal experience as the only one that is happening, but if for even a few breaths everyday, I can take my head out of the sand and see that the other experience of the story is happening with of without my acknowledgement, perhaps my heart can soften. Perhaps my knowing that this experience happened to both sides and we are all doing the best we can to move through the uncomfortable can allow me to release my expectations.   

In Tibetan Heart Yoga, there is a meditation practice called Tonglen, or “sending and taking”. This practice reminds me very much of the thing that connected me to Alexander Technique a few years back.  Instead of ignoring the outside stimuli, this practice asks us to take it all in. Take in all of the pain, all of the suffering, and transform it into healing. Though traditionally done with the suffering of others in mind, it can also start at a very personal level and then expand outward.

On the in-breath, breathe in all of the grief, pain, suffering, sadness. Breathe in all of the things that are holding you back from writing an ending. Breathe in every unfulfilled hope or expectation. Breathe in every moment that is chaining you to the past, chaining you to the way things were. Fill yourself up completely with it. Collect all of the negativity in a black orb around your heart. In the pause between the inhale and the exhale, the energy of the heart, your heartbeat, transform that black orb into white smoke.
On the out-breath breathe out the white smoke into the world. This white smoke is the suffering  transformed. It is the relief. It is the healing.

Every breath is like that until you can take what is going on with you and include all of the people who are going through the same thing. Then, you breathe for them.

Needing closure feels important in writing endings. Very often, we don’t get it from the outside and we must find it on the inside. Closure gives us the sense of having power in our own lives, claiming our agency. When we are denied that by another person it can feel like we are somehow powerless, trapped in the past, unable to write the ending, doomed to play out the past in our present. So when you can’t get the closure you want, create the closure you need. Reclaim your agency. Do what you can. Offer it up to the universe. Transform your suffering and the suffering of all into healing one breath, one heartbeat, at a time.