Face the abyss: on ending projects
How do we properly end projects and relationships? I've been pondering this question in the past year as I very slowly make my way out of commitments. There has been a lingering sense of fear that once I end the project or a working relationship along with it, I would be cut off from a world once so familiar. Letting that go feels scary.
On the flip side, not knowing how to end something lurks in the shadow of the collective. The American culture doesn't really know how to end things. Perhaps aside from funerals, there isn't any known procedure on closure. The "Do it your way" mentality so typical in this culture feels inadequate most of the time. If we don't know how to end something, do we then actually empty the cup before filling again? Are we lying to ourselves about the illusion of "progress" or "moving forward," if we can't and don't know how to close a chapter of our lives or society?
It's clear to me that I won't be working on For the Women Retreat in the foreseeable future, then why tightly holding on to the domain, the social accounts? Is there something I'm trying to prove with its visible existence in the digital world? Why not saying goodbye and close things down? I reasoned with myself:
The space we take online feels free. But is it really free? Somewhere in the desert, a server emitting greenhouse gas houses the project. Every year, I pay some amount of money for the domain and the hosting. The space on the server and the money aren't free.
Maybe one day I will start the project again. It's quite possible, but in my heart of hearts, I know the next iteration of the project will not be the same.
I already accumulated a certain number of followers through this project, and I wanted them to stick around. Will they? Do I stick around projects when people have abandoned them? No, I don't.
Then, what do I do to close the project? How should I do it? Publicly announcing the death of a project invites questions, such as "What's next?", questions that I have no answer. Closing a project is to face the holding ground directly.
I first heard about a holding ground from a boat tour in the Newfoundland. The captain pointed to a clearing of the lake, and said that this is the place where fishermen, trappers, or hunters used to shelter during a storm before moving on with their journey. The place is their holding ground. I loved the phrase and the imagery it brings. A sanctuary of the in-between.
I want to close the project with gratitude. Thank you to Victor and Leslie who helped build the project with me. Thank you to all the women who expressed interested in the project, and those who came to the retreats. Thank you for your trust. I think about you often, and the memory of the two trips brings air and light on the days when I feel deflated and small. Thank you to their friends and partners who supported them when they were on the trip. Thank you to those who witnessed our journey on the side lines.
I also want to close the project with a procedure:
- Private email to participants, and invite them to preserve whatever they need from the website and social accounts.
- Public newsletter announcement of the closure on all the platforms this project has been part of.
- Leave the space open for 72 hours for responses, public or private.
- Close the accounts permanently.
- Make an offering to the world as a celebration.
Face the abyss.
I imagine the fishermen and hunt-gatherers making shelters in the holding ground, not knowing when they will be able to continue their journey. Yet in a way, the holding ground is part of the journey. I have been in my own holding ground for more than 1 year, and I have no idea what is on the other side. The abyss, though, feels like the right place to be. To return to the womb of the darkness before all creations, and rest there. Movement will come, and I trust that I will know when the time is right.