Confession: over the last year, I’ve been geeking out over, and gleaning lessons from, the Broadway hit Hamilton, and slowly making meaning of them for my life and circle practices. One of the standouts is George Washington’s choice to end his presidency on his own terms, despite the resistance of the younger generation (Hamilton):
HAMILTON: As far as the people are concerned
You have to serve, you could continue to serve—
WASHINGTON: No! One last time
The people will hear from me
One last time
And if we get this right
We're gonna teach 'em how to say goodbye,
You and I--
HAMILTON: Mr. President, they will say
WASHINGTON: No, they will see we're strong.
HAMILTON: Your position is so unique.
WASHINGTON: So I'll use it to move them along.
HAMILTON: Why do you have to say goodbye?
WASHINGTON: If I say goodbye, the nation learns to move on.
It outlives me when I'm gone.
Not only does Washington notice that it's over, he accepts and embraces the ending to such a degree that he decides to teach others how to accept endings. He accepts the "death" of his presidency as a gift for both himself and his new nation coming of age; he will have his "moment alone in the shade" and the freedom to serve his nation in a new way:
WASHINGTON: I wanna talk about neutrality...
I want to warn against partisan fighting.
While noticing the presidency is over he sees a new way to serve. It's not just about death but about a new beginning as well.
The beauty in recognizing when something is coming to an end, and marking it appropriately, is that it consciously ends and opens. Washington reminds us that an end is also a beginning that leads to new perspective. This simple understanding is not so simple to activate in life, but perhaps in small ways we can practice this, conversation by conversation, circle by circle.
Tip #1 – Tune in to the nature of the ending. Our default is to fight and resist endings; we long to keep everything alive at any cost, even when it is more compassionate to embrace death and rebirth in every part of our lives. An ending might require a big gathering and ceremony. It might be the end of a 30 minute circle. Both benefit from noting and marking an end, ensuring there is energy for a beginning.
Tip # 2 – Choose how to mark the end. The end could be three day event to wrap up a big project. It could be a solemn circle by a fire. It could be a 10 second moment at the end of monthly meeting. Tune into what works for the magnitude of the ending and the people involved.
Tip #3 – Embody The Circle Way Agreements by “tending to the ending”. My friend and fellow circler Heather Plett had one of those dreams where participants were all over the place and not leaving the circle before it was over. She rang the bell and reminded them: “we agreed to tend to the well-being of the circle; we need to finish well to live up to that agreement.”
Tip #4 – Start small. Little practices are punctuation so life is not an exhausting run-on sentence. And the little practices add up to more sensible verses and stanzas that add coherence to life. Trust that small things will lead to bigger things. Little practices to mark the endings and beginnings that come with those endings enable us to better say goodbye. Here are some ways practitioners of The Circle Way mark little endings:
Thank you, Hamilton, for this reminder to notice how we embody conscious closure, how to celebrate the beauty in endings and allow them to nourish new beginnings.
Beth Sanders works and volunteers in local government and community organizations that strive to make the most of the limited human and financial resources available while supporting the three pillars of a sustainable community: economic, social and environmental networks. Beth facilitates and coaches local decision making with processes that create a strong focus, allowing each organization to be purposeful and calm amid fierce storms of competing demands, both at the board table and within communities. Under current exploration is the evolutionary relationship between citizens and cities.