As this season of picnics, bike rides, and boundless light starts to soften its intensity, I am reminded of the sweet days of summer when, as a kid, I would charge into the house as the sun began to set with a sweat stained face, filthy-dirty feet, and usually a good scrape or two. I lived in a neighborhood where people wandered in and out of everyone else’s house and most of the kids made up games in the street that would spill into the endless row of backyards. As much as I liked being part of the neighborhood cacophony, there was something sweetly satisfying as dusk arrived, and all the kid’s names would be called from their respective porches signaling that the day’s end had begun.
While I am in huge support of rising in the early morning and creating “power starts” to the day (you will usually find me awake and reading before 5:00am), I have begun appreciating the practice of ending the day in a more deliberate manner. As light gives way to the purple hues of dusk and the blanketing darkness of night, it has often been too easy for me to keep moving until I either dive into some numbing distraction or just plow into my pillow and hope for some sleep. But as sleep sometimes eludes me, and I look up at the ceiling at two in the morning wondering about what was and what might be, I decided to begin the curious practice of examining the day before I fall sleep, offering thanks for what was and preparing for what could be next. In the process of reflecting on the hours that came before, I found some interesting changes happen within.
First, as I began rehearsing what had happened in the day, I was able to start giving credit to myself and, more importantly, to others for all the good and beautiful things that had occurred in each hour. I could take in a small kindness of a stranger, an encouraging word from a loved one, a success on a project or completion of a creative task that I hadn’t had the time to really absorb as the minutes rolled by. This review increases thoughts of gratitude which then deepens my sense of well-being. It is healing.
Second, during a day’s review, I sense the big-picture of many events, which helps to decrease anxiety about all the “what if’s” I had started the day with. As I re-play the day’s events and outcomes, I realize that every conversation, experience or task had a life of its own and that, in the end, everything always works out. I don’t have to worry at all because none of the fretting I had done earlier came to bear. And if it did, it almost was never the tragedy I had envisioned. In other words, there’s no use in writing the story of the day ahead of time, because the progressing hours have an ending that comes no matter what I spend my energy afraid of. I’ve grown in peace and confidence as I drop fear and just experience whatever lies ahead.
Third, reflecting on the day has helped me to deepen the practice of letting go and just being. As I take time to remember, gratefully looking back at all that has occurred, I realize it is actually over. There is no going back to change conversations, no rewinding to become more loving or patient, which leads to a growing acceptance that what was IS. I don’t have to conjure more energy grasping for “I should have,” “ I could have” “Why did that happen….” It’s simply done and the best I can do for myself and the world around me is to turn forward as I allow my mind and body to embrace the reboot that is sleep and allow tomorrow to bring itself to me. I remember that I will have the chance at the next sunrise to recreate what didn’t go well in the day before, to celebrate more fervently what had meaning for me and to trust the process that all things ebb and flow.
As I’ve built this practice of ending the day in a deliberate way, I find myself less often staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night. But more importantly, each day has taken on a sacred quality of its own as I look back and acknowledge the gift that it was and move into the next day with more joy and excitement that we will all be gifted again with another chance to heal, grow, and become.
Some Ways to Create Ritual Around Ending Your Day
- Journal what went well, what you want to have better in the future and one step towards that goal
- Speak, write, or sing any and all gratitude, big and small, from each hour of the day
- Sit or walk outside under the moonlight, perhaps with a cup of tea, and allow yourself to unfurl from activity and connect with the rhythm of nature as it is prepares to rest
- Talk through your day with someone trusted and reflect together all the gifts and challenges of the day and name hopes for tomorrow