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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

It’s the end of another month. This is the time when I usually do an end/beginning thing, don’t I? Since I have not used the word end, it’s getting its fifteen minutes of fame today. The month is ending, the week is ending. The summer is ending. Technically summer hangs around for another 20-ish days but really all things that matter about summer end with August.

Which I guess is a weird thing for me to say since it doesn’t affect me in any meaningful sense. I don’t go back to school. Nothing changes about my life.

It feels different though. It feels over.

Also I don’t think I could ever be old enough for going back to school not to bring on nightmares.

One could argue that kids going back to school is better for me. Less human clutter. Quieter streets. But it still makes me cringe and get that icky ants-under-your-skin feeling.

This is not the back to school blog, though. My anxiety level couldn’t take it.

There are different kinds of endings. The thank god that’s over ending. The I wish it would never end ending. Or, like most things, somewhere in the middle with a feeling of ambivalence. Something fine is ending and something fine is beginning except it’s harder to end than begin. It goes against the whole devil you know thing.

Like, why trade fine for fine, when fine is… fine?

I like beginnings but that doesn’t stop me from having a strange antipathy toward endings. By tomorrow I’ll turn to a clean page in my journal and start my monthly task lists and have a new set of Peloton badges to achieve and it will be all glowy and honeymoonish, but we’re not there yet.

The honeymoon with August is definitely over, but that doesn’t mean I want to break up with it. Saying goodbye is bittersweet.

August was good to me. I had a birthday and cake. We went to New Orleans. There were several spectacular thunderstorms and lots of mint. It will be missed.

Right now September is just a dream. It will have to wait its turn.

The weather apparently knew things were ending, because after weeks of 95 degree heat I woke up to 62 today. Clearly the weather is saying goodbye to summer, too.

On the one hand it will be a relief because it’s been a little too uncomfortable. On the other hand I know it’s the beginning of another end, and soon I’ll be locking the windows and turning up the heat and not wanting to leave the house.

I don’t mind leaving the house when it’s hot. It may be uncomfortable at times but I like slipping on my sandals and walking out the door. Can’t do that in winter. Too much overhead. You have socks and shoes and coats and hats and layers of things. It’s a whole project. I hate leaving the house in winter, not least of all because hot may be uncomfortable but cold is misery.

The end of August always makes me sad because I know what’s coming. I need a winter house in Arizona.

This is not the House In Arizona blog. As usual I’ve written too many words to change course now.

It’s late, and, perhaps not coincidentally, the end of my evening, which is also bittersweet. I like the end of the day because it means the dinner is cooked, the dishes are washed, and I can sit down and ponder profound things. On the other hand, it means my time here is waning. The beginning of an end is more fun than the end of an end.

Ralph and I watched the last episode of Good Omens tonight and I hated the ending. Very disappointing. But I guess an appropriate point for the idea of ends.

You know what nobody can do? End things.

Honestly, I’m not exempt. Starting a blog is easy. I write a sentence and we’re off to the races. Ending one… not so much. The most amount of time I spend on my blog is on titles, photos, and endings, in increasing order of difficulty.

Think about it. When was the last time you thought, my goodness, she really started that off badly. But you probably remember an unsatisfying ending or two, maybe a place where things seemed to trail off, or just stop abruptly. Or, to be fair, you don’t think anything at all because you’re not OCD like me and constantly rereading the endings to consider how they can be improved. I’ll give you that.

Endings have to punctuate and satisfy. It’s like the summer camp rule of writing, which if you have been following along will make sense and if not won’t and either way I’m not explaining it again. There’s a search bar on my site if you really want the refresher.

Beginnings get a free pass, they’re sort of just an easement. Something that has to slide you into a month/story/party/project. But beginnings are long forgotten. Nobody looks back at a book or a movie and says wow that started horribly.

Endings, though, those stick around. You may not remember the book but you remember if it had a bad ending. A lot of endings are bad.

TV shows have the advantage of getting cancelled so after a while a show peters out and then nobody expects an ending anyway, which is an abomination because no ending is worse than a bad one. Although… maybe I should think about that before I commit to it.

But it’s hard to end a show or a movie. It’s why entire test audiences are built around watching a pilot and why studios go to great lengths to test endings. It’s what you remember.

I can name on one hand the number of shows with a good ending. So many really excellent shows failed in the end with a feeling like I wasted all that time for… that. No matter that nearly every other episode was exciting and enjoyable. The end let all that goodness scatter to the wind.

Sopranos? Terrible. Lost? Terrible. Game of Thrones? Sacrilege. Battlestar Galactica? I hope someone got fired. I loved these shows and then some writer in a room who did not understand endings ruined the entire thing for me.

Six Feet Under. That is probably the best ending I have ever seen. Breaking Bad. Perfect.

Well, I said I could count good endings on one hand but really I can count them on two fingers.

It doesn’t even have to be an ending I like, but it has to be fitting and demonstrate some understanding of the fact that a show, like a sentence, needs punctuation.

This isn’t the TV show blog, either, but apparently I’m turning it into one.

There is a book called Thinking Fast And Slow that I very much enjoyed. I remember neither how it begun nor how it ended, but in the middle was a wealth of intriguing studies and conclusions about how weird and illogical people are.

There is something called the peak-end rule that backs up the summer camp rule completely. It says that when you look back at an event or experience, your feelings about it are heavily influenced by two things: one, the point of highest emotional intensity, and two, the end.

Say you go on a trip. You have two weeks of vacation and it has its ups and down, but one day you go sky diving and you’re madly exhilarated. You will remember that more than you will remember having a great meal or seeing a beautiful sight. In fact, a two day vacation with one peak experience will be remembered more fondly than two weeks of a plain old good time.

Similarly, the end is how you evaluate the whole. So even if you lost your luggage and the Eiffel Tower was closed and you waited in line for an hour for the crepes only to find out they were sold out, but the last day of your trip was spectacular, you are more likely to recollect it as a good trip.

People have done studies. One famous study evaluated people’s memories of a surgical procedure. Person A had a long procedure that was painful, but at the end the doctors contrived to make the procedure even longer so they could taper off the pain. Person B had a short and less painful procedure, except for a moment at the end where the pain level rose.

A logical person would think that Person B’s surgery was preferable, but Person A consistently evaluated their experience as better even though it was longer and relatively more painful. Why? Because the end was better.

What does this have to do with August? Nothing.

Endings are tricky I guess is the point.

By the way, I googled why are so many finales so bad and Google asked me if I meant females.

Endings. They need to be good. They need to be satisfying. They need to button things up. Put a pin in it. Stick a fork in it.

We may say things like huh, that didn’t get off to such a good start, but that is quickly forgotten the minute we think wow, what a great ending!

Perhaps it is unfortunate that I chose to end August with this topic since it is neither peak nor particularly conclusive.

And now it isn’t going to matter that you read my blog all month and got to hear about fun things like cake and beignets and socks and libraries. All you will remember is that I ended the month talking about surgical procedures and bad TV shows.


Since endings are hard, I will defer to more clever souls and leave you with this witticism, which at least will have the benefit of making you also feel clever when you figure it out. And that, at least, will be a happy ending.

What starts with W, ends with T and has two letters in between.

Just stating the obvious.

Photo: the end of the road, literally. Franklin is full of places where there is a piece of a sidewalk that goes nowhere and then stops.