Happy Endings

by Tom Swift

I want to get better at ending my days.

I have gotten pretty good at starting my days. I know the things I need to do in order to don my metaphorical suit of armor. Writing. Workout. Dog care. Go.

I am less good at follow-through in the final hours.

When fatigue has set in.

After my body has exhaled.

Those moments of peace that come after you have done your best.

And eaten your day’s last meal.

And the sun has set.

The body speaks just then: sit down. Lie down. Enough with all this movement.

Yet the mind still has something to say.

The gears still turn.

The brain still moves.

Tired but wired. You hear that all the time. Yoga instructor as therapist. Talk show as sensei. We’re all psychologists now.

That is not necessarily what I am talking about. Certainly not all of what I am talking about. You can be tired but wired at noon.

As I sit outside with my dog on this early spring day, I am thinking about ways to end each day that help launch me into the next one.

Ways to sleep more peacefully than I otherwise might.

The phone is usually not involved, except to the extent that it is in another room.

In this electronic age, this is easier said than done. I write on my phone. I read on my phone. Of course, I also have notebooks and physical books. Which I much enjoy. But I do not edit, publish, or send my writings with paper. Sometimes, as is the case with a present project, I have required reading that only comes by way of pdf. And nighttime is often a right time to make a little progress.

What’s a guy to do?

I will figure out the answer to that question. At the moment, I am thinking more about the importance of stopping. Of completing. Of saying that you are done and then actually being done. How we end one thing plays a part in how we start the next.

There is something to be said here about active versus passive. The day is going to end whether you like it or not. Why linger past the de facto end just because the actual end is still three hours, two hours, thirty minutes, whatever, away?

My writing partner told me last night about a TED talk she heard recently on the topic of endings. This is probably what got me thinking about moments in life in which I have tried to squeeze something out of a dry sponge.

The fabulous vacation that climaxed half a day before boarding for the flight home began.

The party that stopped being fun an hour ago.

The job that was done months ago but you haven’t gotten around to updating the resume and so …

The relationship that plateaued a year ago.

The nights when you take on a problem that a good night’s sleep would be better equipped to solve.

Our days are opportunities to learn how to end well. Even the best days have endings, both as calculated by a clock and by the natural arc of our role in them.

To pursue more from something that has concluded seems so obviously unwise as to not require elaboration.

I have heard it said that how we do anything is how how we do everything. Taking the absolutes out of it, that seems about right.

Taken to its conclusion — the final ending — how do you plan to die — in a rush or in sweet release?

Back in the here and now, on my chair surveying the grass that wants to be green, two things we have are time and energy. Burning both unnecessarily is just wasteful.

Yet I do it all the time. I did it last night, in fact. Reading turned into tweeting turned into waking up when I wanted to be turning off.

There are things I can do — pulling out the gratitude journal and noting that day’s gifts is one; planning the following day being a second on the short list — to prime myself to say goodbye to the day just ended and hello to the one ahead.

At this point I am just looking for a good way to end this post.

Possibly I should have done so a few paragraphs ago.

Yet I didn’t. Here I still am. Searching for a good, or at least satisfactory, ending.

And then the squirrel — yep, the same squirrel who taunts my dog daily — scampers across the lawn, feet from where we are sitting, daring my little buddy to give chase. Which he does. Of course. Before you can say acorn. That is, until the squirrel scales the maple and takes shelter in an unfair perch immediately above and beyond reach.

The little buddy did what he could. Now he is resigned.

He walks back to over. He heads for the door. Time to go inside. I agree. It’s so done out here.