N is for Necessary Endings #AtoZChallenge #PandemicAlphabet

April 16, 2021

I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Akilah, seriously, a self-help book about ending things? How on earth could that be a comfort read?” And you’re right, mostly, but think of it this way: The pandemic has made a lot of things clear to us and sometimes those things are things (relationships, jobs, etc) we need to let go of but for some reason, we just can’t seem to. In Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud, he walks you through some steps and activities to help you figure out if you really need to let go of that thing or maybe stick in there just a little longer.

necessary endings by henry cloud

As I was looking through my Goodreads to find inspiration for N and landed on this title, it clicked that I should write about it. I was also inspired because I recently recommended the book to two friends of mine in two separate industries who were thinking of quitting their jobs but weren’t sure about it.

I joined a Necessary Endings discussion group several years ago when I was thinking about quitting my job, which is what prompted me to read the book. Technically, you don’t HAVE to read the book as there are basically five guiding principles and then a couple of guiding questions to think through. However, I do think the scenarios discussed by Cloud do help illuminate the principles and questions by giving the reader different ways to think about what he’s talking about. If I have one complaint about the book is that it’s VERY heavily focused on business and also a little dry. But when I read it all those years ago, I was trying to make a business decision, and it did also help me make a personal decision, so it worked as intended.

Cloud also wrote the book on boundaries (literally!), so of course discussions of boundaries are threaded through. But I think the most important thing about the book is the questions. By thinking through and answering the questions, I learned that I didn’t want to quit my job, but I was extremely burnt out and needed a break. I reevaluated my work-life balance, figured out what I needed to take a break, and then took one and then made sure to keep taking them. And then I didn’t need to quit my job anymore.

Likewise, this one question really helped me figure out that I needed to make a necessary ending because it forced me to face the reality of the situation:

What reason, other than the fact that I want this to work, do I have for believing that tomorrow is going to be different from today?

OTHER THAN THE FACT THAT I WANT THIS TO WORK. I mean, just come right for my throat, why don’t you?

Here are the other questions, for posterity:

–Do I want this same reality, frustration, or problem 6 months from now?
–Do I want this same level of performance a year from now?
–What reason is there to have hope that tomorrow is going to be different?
–What in the picture is changing that I can believe in?

And if you’re dealing with people, there are also these questions to consider:

–Is there a reason to expect them to act a certain way?
–Do they have a history of being dependable, creative, and of following through? Or the opposite?
–And if I’m expecting them to act differently—why? Is there any objective reason for that, other than their desire to change or my hope they will?

So what makes this a comfort read? For me, it was nice to know that I wasn’t alone in wanting to leave a situation that wasn’t necessarily bad but wasn’t working for me. It was also nice to really sit and consider what I wanted and needed and be guided by something other than a simple pros and cons list since that wasn’t really getting to the heart of the matter either. And, of course, I love that once I finished the book, I had a concrete solution to the problem I was facing. Obviously, the book didn’t tell me what to do, but it provided an opportunity to be thoughtful about what I was doing and why.

All of that said, leaving or staying in a difficult situation often requires a lot more support than just a book can give you, so other resources such as therapists, support groups, family, or friends are important as well. (Is this a disclaimer? I think so.)

It’s okay to leave, but it’s also okay to take comfort in the fact that you may not know for sure–especially during a global pandemic–and that’s okay.

For this year’s A to Z Challenge, I have decided that I’m going to focus on comfort reads/watches as we enter our second (!) April in the pandemic. Tune in tomorrow to see what I choose for O!

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  1. Bryan G. Robinson

    I get it…to some degree. I’m reading a collection of poetry written last year during the pandemic and it’s surprisingly a bit of a comfort read too, even though people might not immediately think of that. And I think like you in what makes this collection of poetry for me a comfort read is that it is nice to know I’m not alone with similar thoughts. No one is alone.

    • Akilah

      Yes, that makes perfect sense to me. There was a poem by Elizabeth Acevedo that went viral recently that she wrote pre-pandemic, but it so perfectly captures the pandemic experience that people were like “WHEW YES.”


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