I couldn’t sleep last night and there was absolutely no reason why that should have been. I’d gone on a long walk in the heat, down to the pool and I even swam in band-aid-infested chlorinated water with hundreds of happy children who wouldn’t get out of my lap lane. After an hour of laps in a pool that resembled a flooded ant bed, I walked home in the heat, in my flipflops, past houses with Christmas trees in the front window. (What a weird world this is, Christmas in summer.) Last night I had every reason to be exhausted. And I was when I crawled into bed, thankful for the bright stars and moon, thankful for the crisp nighttime air, wafting through all the white wooden open windows. But I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned all night, waking constantly.
Every time I woke up, I knew what I already knew was going to happen had happened. Or, had not happened. That is, what you all know now, too.
The world did not end.
Why do we keep doing this? Saying the world is going to end? It happens every other year or so and I’m starting to think that we do this on purpose. Like maybe we really DO need the world to end. We need to produce an imaginary Y2K scenario because, as of late, New Years just doesn’t cut it for us anymore. We need a potential reality-altering catastrophe, an imminent, dangerous threat to make us sit down and think.
Most people probably gave it a little thought, even if only in jest, the way I did. Of course I didn’t believe that the world really would end. But that didn’t stop me from thinking, “What if…”
The interesting thing about that question, if entertained, is that it doesn’t really induce a whole lot of fear. People don’t build shelters or try to find a means to protect themselves, dashing around to find the people they most love (I’m thinking of this scene in Titanic). Instead, they plan parties. They drink. They celebrate and sing songs written about 1999, an end long past and over.
It seems to me that people kind of like endings. Change, no. We hate change. But that’s what beginnings represent, cause, spur.
The month of January is the dreaded Monday of the year. After the Friday that is the holidays we force ourselves to get serious with resolutions and restrictions. The adult in us comes out to ruin the party that the kid in us has been so enjoying. We point our finger at ourselves and say, ‘Time to buckle down now, no more fun.’ And if that weren’t enough, with each new turn of the calendar we are presented with MORE. More unsettling uncertainties, more failed resolutions, more debt, more mistakes, more carbon footprints, more violence, more war, more problems general. Week after week, year after year, we know what awaits us. Most likely it’s just going to be more, more of all that stuff we have had enough of.
The End? It is the opposite of more. It is nothing.
Nothingness is what makes endings so sad. But what if we knew that we wouldn’t have to feel that sadness because it would be an end to everything and everyone? No one would feel sad because there would be no sadness to feel. It would all just be over. The End of all existence. The absolute last period that marks the phrase The End.
That concept presents a strange relief. A twisted sense of hope. It provides us with a chance to look at where we are and what we don’t have (enough money, a new car, a fancy house) and see that maybe it is, has been and will be enough. The end gives us a different lens from which to look through, a chance to see the good in our lives with unusual clarity. It forces us to stop taking things for granted. It lets us live in the here and now, an opportunity we rarely ever give ourselves.
This is why I think we keep creating this scenario over and over again. Because we need endings. Perhaps we feel that all we ever have are constant beginnings. It’s not true, but it’s how we feel because with a beginning we are forced to DO something. The alarm clock goes off and we awake into conscious action. January rolls around and we suddenly have to engage in sacrifice–to lose weight, to save money.
Endings are more passive, they require less, which is why we barely notice them happening. We don’t have an alarm clock that sounds at night that puts us straight to sleep. Roosters don’t crow to mark the end of the day. Endings have their own way–sometimes they are abrupt and painful and sometimes they are deeply embedded in process we barely notice when they occur.
No wonder we keep pretending time might stop. No wonder we fantasize our own demise; it provides us with an escape route from routine. It gives us an alternative to another New Year. (Now I’m thinking of that horrible movie Ground Hog’s Day where everyday is the same and as a result the whole movie is the same.) Same same and more of the same is enough to drive anyone insane.
What if we instated a new scenario on December 31st? What if, instead of ringing in the new year we made it a festival to mark The End. New Year’s Eve could be renamed as, Yay, it’s over and we did it even if we don’t know what “it” is and we don’t really know if we’ll wake up tomorrow or even the next day so let’s love what we have, who is near and dear and be merry. What if we concluded every day as though it were the end? I think we’d probably be happier. More at peace. More in love. Less in conflict.
Today is December 22nd and I hear a lawn mower in the distance, a sweet reminder that where I am it’s life as usual on a summer Saturday morning. With all the comfort that a potential ending might bring, the sound of something familiar is just as welcome a relief. It marks the chance to begin yet another ending. May it be a good one for all of us.