A beginning in working clothes
I love beginnings. They just fascinate me. The vitalizing scent of a cup of freshly brewed coffee. Or feeling the warmth of the freshly baked bread or cake. Enter the pristine sand of a beach. Open a fresh bag of cookies. The sound of a cork popping out of a wine bottle. Or the hiss when opening a beer bottle.
Ever since I’ve been able to write, I’ve loved opening an unused notebook. The magic of these many white pages and that I can write or paint anything. With a single stroke on the first page, the magazine can become a recipe book, a shopping list, a fairy tale, a diary or the latest novel by an unknown writer. And I’ve always loved to lie down in a bed that’s just been freshly covered and made, with this smell of detergent in the covers, and the scented sheet that clings to the warmth of my body. There is a certain magic, an extraordinary miracle in the beginning, full of possibilities, full of promises, radiant. I always knew that starting was good, alive, a challenge that makes me grow and mature. Or simply enjoy.
My problem is not the beginnings, but the end, the farewells they contain. If you want to fill the wine glass, you must empty it first. This may not be a significant problem with wine but applying this simple wisdom in all areas of life is sometimes quite hard. There are some things you may want to end and begin in parallel – if you open the new cookie bag before you have finished eating the old one. It’s no big deal, except maybe you’re eating a few calories too many. But if you first have to leave a beloved place and start at a new home, then it looks different. If you are closing doors to often before people who have nothing wrong in their minds, but also nothing good, just to open a new gap, being uncertain that this gap leads somewhere, it is a more significant challenge. And to say goodbye to people you have loved, making room for people you can love anew, that seems to me to be one of the most challenging tasks, because it is so emotional.
Some goodbyes carry within themselves an apparent promise of a new beginning. When we move, for example, we say goodbye to the memories and experiences we had in the old home, but we know that more experiences and episodes are waiting in the new house. And even if the move itself costs efforts, it is necessary and can also lead to a vast improvement.
When I say goodbye to a book that I just finished, I know that there are so many millions of books that I can read, that I can even read that same book again, which makes saying goodbye easier. Although there are books that you hope can be infinite.
There are minimalist tendencies of order that dictate that – before one buys something new – one must first say goodbye to something old. So, if you want to buy shoes, you should first look through the shoes you already have, remove a pair, and only then can you buy a new pair. The KonMari method of the Japanese Marie Kondo goes even further: go through all your belongings; what really makes you happy you can keep, what does not contain happiness for you, what does not have this magic to make your eyes shine, has to go. I’m not a fan of the method, and I don’t live in a minimalist way either, but I think this principle can also be applied to relationships. When the people you meet in your daily life, be it on the street, in the neighborhood, at work, in your family or in your circle of friends, don’t make you happy, move away from them. In this case, I don’t use the word “happiness” in a consumption-oriented sense, and in the short term, of course, friends, relatives, and neighbors can also have a bad day and need our help to get over it and laugh again. But I mean “happiness” in the sense of feeling good when we’re with them. In the spirit: I would rather be with these people if they have bad days than with others, even if they are in a good mood, but do not make me happy.
There are moments in life when one becomes aware of such truths. It was a decisive moment for me when my dad passed away. It was a very moving farewell that forever shaped me, and it was undoubtedly one such end in which one doubts the goodness of life and the existence of happiness and hope in itself. Physically I did not move from the spot, but inwardly I was far away, trapped within myself. And only a few people wanted to put up with me. When, after months, I came back to life, when I accepted that death is part of the goodness in life, part of the raison d’être of happiness, when I recognized that hope also includes death, I had changed and began to end friendships. I wished nothing evil to all these people, but I had nothing good to offer them either. Neither do I. In the long run. I found it better to focus my strength on people I do well with and who make me happy.
My primary challenge now is not to hurry too much with the beginning of new things, but rather to finish old things well. The beginning is inevitable, and much more if you end cleanly. If you do tabula rasa, if you manage to clean, empty, order well, open space, sweep, do a deep cleaning (emotional and real) you make room for the new things so that they have a free stage on which they can happen and perform.
A friend of mine said there don’t exist any problems. Problems are only solutions in working clothes, that’s all. If you apply that to a broader framework, you can say that there are no goodbyes. Farewells are beginnings in working clothes.
Let’s get started.