The art of saying goodbye is an art I have yet to master.
“Practice makes perfect,” they say; Lord knows I’ve been practicing for years. The Goodbye is a cornerstone of a nomadic lifestyle, equally as important–more so, perhaps–than The Hello.
The act of saying “goodbye,” is indeed one of the few constants in my life. What most people likely don’t suspect, however, is that The Goodbye never gets any easier. In this case, practice doesn’t make perfect.
What makes the art of The Goodbye so difficult to master, you ask?
The Goodbye, though constant, is never the same twice. Each goodbye is a snowflake, unique in the way it wounds the heart.
Some goodbyes are voluntary; while these goodbyes are often the easiest to execute, make no mistake–even The Voluntary Goodbye leaves its mark.
Some goodbyes happen too soon. The Too-Soon Goodbye is quite common in the life of a traveler; when we meet someone with whom we connect on a profound level, the time we have with that person never quite feels like enough. But people have plans they can’t always change; obligations they cannot shirk. Valiantly though we may fight to avoid The Too-Soon Goodbye, rarely do we emerge victorious.
The Not-Soon-Enough Goodbye is another vicious breed. How do we possibly perform such a goodbye with any grace? With tact? With kindness? When I ferret out that secret, I’ll be sure to let you know.
You might think when you know a goodbye is coming you’ll have time to prepare. Time to guard your heart. Time to think of the right words to say. Time to come to terms with that person’s absence. But even The Imminent Goodbye weighs heavily on the heart. It does little more than induce stress, anxiety, apprehension. The Imminent Goodbye might be the goodbye I abhor the most.
And what of its counterpart, The Unexpected Goodbye? The goodbye that leaves you with no time to prepare–the goodbye that leaves you reeling, leaves you with nothing but questions?
In truth, there probably isn’t any single goodbye that I care for.
Plans, Changes, Goodbyes
This week has been awash with goodbyes. More goodbyes will follow next week. Plans have been extinguished, others changed; goodbyes are resulting in more goodbyes.
Saying goodbye to a loved one this week means saying goodbye to Medellín a bit earlier than planned. My sweet grandmother Polly, a decided contributor to both my dimples and petite stature, will be very dearly missed.
This coming Monday I’ll be boarding a flight to the US and saying goodbye (perhaps just a Goodbye-For-Now?) to Colombia for the chance to be with my family during this vulnerable time.
Leaving Colombia was always an Imminent Goodbye, but all it took was one moment for it to morph into an Unexpectedly-Too-Soon Goodbye. It’s easy to see now that I was never really going to be ready.
As I dole out goodbyes left and right in the coming days–to the city I’ve come to call home, to the country that has captured my heart, to the friends who’ve grown dear to me in the blink of an eye–I’ll strive for grace, for tact, for kindness. I’ll strive to guard my heart against the unique pain of each subsequent goodbye.
Perhaps I’ll exclusively wield the Spanish nos vemos instead, in hopes that we really will see each other; I don’t like the idea of The Permanent Goodbye.
I’ll take solace in the fact that goodbyes beget hellos. To see my family again, despite the poignant circumstances, will put a smile on my face; and, more importantly, help to soothe my aching heart. My family deserves more hellos.
This barrage of goodbyes stings, to be sure. Mastery of The Goodbye continues to elude me, and the possibility remains that it can’t truly be mastered at all. Until I know for sure, though, there’s not much I can do but practice, practice, practice.