How Endings Become Beginnings

It goes without saying that 2020 has been an incredibly painful year for so many of us. It’s also been a year of uncomfortable waiting—a year of waiting for a pandemic to pass, waiting for an election fraught with division to arrive, waiting for life to return to normal. Which, let’s face it, is probably never going to happen.

The great thing is, after the waiting period is over, we usually find ourselves in a brand-new place. And sometimes, it’s a place that exceeds our wildest expectations. 

For me, the past year has been one not necessarily of transition, but of rest. In Judaism, the “shmita” year is an opportunity to let the land rest after six years of work. The word literally means “release” and is a time of rest, in which the land is left fallow. Many of us require our own fallow period in which we get to do nothing, or very little compared to our normal mode. However, while it may sound ideal, this is often an uncomfortable time, especially for those of us who are so accustomed to doing

But we can also see it as a time in which grace can come over us unexpectedly. A time in which we can actually learn to surrender. A time in which we can momentarily give up our ceaseless activity and simply be with what is present, and what life is trying to tell us.

That’s certainly been true for me. 

I’m noticing that I am shifting to a new way of operating in the world—a way that isn’t about ceaseless growth and activity, but about truly surrendering my vision of how things should be to what is actually present. This has required slowing down and listening to myself at a depth and level that have felt unforeseen. And believe me, the messages are coming through quite strongly.

Over the past several months, I’ve been talking to many of my friends and colleagues about my future plans for Women For One. I’ve been leading my organization for close to a decade now. And it has been immensely rewarding and powerful to have witnessed the thousands of women (and some brave men) who’ve come through and shared their stories with so much courage and openness. I love being an advocate for the people in my global community, because I honestly believe our individual stories have the power to change the world. 

At the same time, I’ve been sensing that this is a pivotal turning point for me. In this fallow period, I have recognized that I’m ready to embark on a new adventure, and do things I’ve never done before. I have told myself, and some others, that I think it might be time to leave Women For One behind. But when I say it out loud, I’ve found myself faltering—because it isn’t easy to let go of something I love so dearly. And truly, Women For One is a treasure in which I have invested so many of my resources, as well as my heartfelt passion and creativity.

However, the more I speak about it—the more I allow myself to really go there—the more I realize I may be holding on to something that wants me to let it go. The level of conversations I’ve been having with people has become deeper and deeper, mirroring back to me where I am in the process of releasing the very thing that once felt like my life purpose. And these conversations have urged me to consider what it is I want, where my energy naturally wishes to go, and where I need to surrender.

Speaking of surrender: When I was in my early 20s, I asked my then-guru what surrender means. I’d always had difficulty surrendering. As a type A, “get-things-done” kind of person whose will has always taken me far and served me well, the notion of surrender frustrated me—and as such, so did its so-called wisdom, which I just didn’t get.

Well, I had a dream just a few days ago where my old guru made an appearance. I hadn’t seen her, much less dreamt of her, in years. In the dream, she looked straight into my eyes with her penetrating gaze, which I can still feel as I write this, and she said, “You know what I am going to say, Kelly. Your heart is closed, and you need to wake up.”

And wake up I did. I sat bolt upright in my bed, her words echoing in my head. Just thinking about it now, I get tears in my eyes and feel my heart beat rapidly. Because I know without a doubt that this dream version of my guru was offering me a message I was finally ready to hear. It was a message that helped me understand what surrender means on a whole new level.

After that dream, I recognized that I’ve been holding on to something for way too long—and as a result, this stubborn clinging has closed my heart. My heart didn’t close because I suddenly quit loving Women For One. Rather, my heart…simply…isn’t in it anymore.

Most of us have been through this before. That is, there are times when we fall asleep in our lives and become comfortably numb—when we keep going through the motions of something we were once deeply passionate about and committed to…until we are not fully aware of what is needed to feed our soul. Often, we become so close to and identified with the thing we’re stubbornly (and unknowingly) holding on to—whether it’s a long-expired relationship or a job we’ve outgrown—that the obvious is lost on us.

This is where surrender can become our greatest ally. Surrender is about acknowledging the shifting of seasons and allowing the change that naturally wants to come into our lives to arrive—without fighting it. Surrender is about waking up and being in your reality, instead of struggling against it. 

Because by being with and accepting what is true, we enable our hearts to open. In many ways, I’m beginning to see surrender as the ultimate feminine virtue: opening up to the wisdom of your heart and deeply feeling what is true for you.

Take a moment to consider for yourself: Is your heart closed, or is it open?

You can feel it instinctively. That is, when your heart is closed, you can feel energy constricting in your body and your life. You no longer move with the flow of the universe. Often, this can feel like tightly clenched fists and a general sense of resistance and self-armoring that often comes from fear or uncertainty.

When your heart is open and surrendered, the quality of your experience is entirely different. You experience a greater degree of acceptance and self-compassion; even when you are making hard decisions, there is a sense of “rightness” that enables you to whisper, “Yes.” Your open heart gives you the kind of acceptance and clarity that help you make more effective choices. And it isn’t something that can be forced.

I believe our hearts tend to alternate between open and closed many times over the course of a day. But do you persistently feel that your heart is closed about a particular topic? If so, why do you think that is? You may not be able to pinpoint the exact reason. But many times, our hearts are closed when there is something in our life that we are struggling against. There is a reality that we are choosing not to see or face. 

I’m not going to make any assumptions about why your heart is closed, or what you should do to change it. However, if you know that there is something in your life that is causing you to close your heart, ask yourself why that might be. And also take a moment not just to inquire where your heart is closed, but to feel the places and situations in which your heart naturally opens. When you get curious about this, you’ll identify the ways your heart longs to experience freedom. 

For example, I notice that my heart is open when I’m embarking on new creative projects and adventures. My heart is open when I get to be still and enjoy the time I spend with my family and close friends. My heart is open when I ponder the possibility of new doors opening. 

I anticipate that there will be many changes ahead in 2021. I don’t yet know what those will be. I don’t yet know the ways in which my organization will transition, or whether it will still be around in some form or other. What I do know is that I am ready to stop struggling. 

I am ready to surrender. 

More than anything, I am ready to open my heart to a new year—a year that is sure to bring many powerful transitions in the wake of all the waiting.

Because I understand that it’s impossible to move forward until I move through and fully complete the cycle that is ending. Without clear endings, it is impossible for the heart to open up to new possibilities. (I will be exploring this journey in more detail in future blogs, where I’ll share my own process for creating generative, open-hearted spaces that help us make powerful choices and take decisive actions that move us into our what’s next.)

Here’s  my wish for all of us as we inch into 2021: May we learn to complete cycles with the utmost honesty and self-compassion. May we face inevitable endings with open-heartedness and grace, so that we can create the next new beginning that’s waiting for us. 

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About the Author | Kelly McNelis

Kelly McNelis is the founder of global community, Women for One, a speaker, coach, facilitator, and bestselling author of Your Messy Brilliance: 7 Tools for the Perfectly Imperfect Woman. With more than 25 years of experience as a nonprofit and small-business consultant, Kelly empowers generations of women around the world to build the relationships, community, and confidence they need to achieve their wildest dreams. She finds daily inspiration in spending time with her husband and children in her home outside of Seattle.

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2 comments to "How Endings Become Beginnings"

  • MJ

    Dear Kelly, This is absolutely beautifully expressed and written. I was just surfing through my FB and came upon your post. I’m tired this evening and almost zipped right by it. But something made me me stop and read your blog. I had just been thinking about the pandemic and the new vaccine becoming available. My first thoughts about relief of the vaccine surprised me. I was widowed in Dec, 2019. My husband died of Alzheimer’s Disease right before we realized that the virus was “out there.” I’m grateful each day that he passed when he did. The deeper I went into isolation this past year the more comfortable I got realizing what a gift this “time out” really offered me. I didn’t feel so abandoned while the rest of the world zipped by me while I was still frozen in time. In the past month I’ve started to awake to possibilities of new beginnings at the end of a long journey. There have been moments of doubt that I can do this, but I feel more empowered after readying your story written with so much truth, hope and love. What a serendipitous moment. Time to spread those wings again. I’ll remember you as I take each step into the future. Wishing you sweet adventure. Warmest regard Kelly. Love, MJ

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      Women For One

      Dear MJ
      Thank you for your kind message and I am sorry to hear about the loss of your husband. I want you to know that I am with you in spirit and I am inspired by your courage to take flight once again.

      I also want to share with you one of my favorite quotes that I hope you will take to heart.

      “For a long time she flew, only when she thought no one else was watching.” ― Brian Andreas
      Big love,