Avoiding Goodbyes

After 761 miles, 12 hours, and 1 satiating stop at In-N-Out Burger, I made it home from Albuquerque over a week ago. 

It rained for the first hour of our drive, which made leaving New Mexico more melancholy than I had anticipated. Once I got home the exhaustion set in, along with a burgeoning to-do list. Soon the goodbye blog post I had envisioned was also relegated to the bottom of that list.

Now I am no longer at home, nor in New Mexico, but in my fourth time zone for the last week. When life becomes transient so do your hellos and goodbyes. Everything swirls together in fluctuating travel and time. The heavy things settle at the bottom like grains of sand, a foundation which we often ignore.

The typical dictionary definition of goodbye is simply a farewell. Most often, dictionaries resist associating the word with any positive or negative connotations because it fluctuate with every individual. We each have our own feelings about goodbyes, there are those who hate them and those who have made peace with them.

     Kurt Vonnegut, in Bluebeard, wrote: “It’s the emptiest and yet the fullest of all human messages: ‘Good-bye.’”

     J.M. Barrie, in Peter Pan, wrote: “Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”

     Jack Kerouac, in On the Road, wrote: “What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

     J.D. Salinger, in Catcher in the Rye, wrote: ” I don’t care if it’s a sad good-bye or a bad good-bye, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it. If you don’t you feel even worse.”

I used to think I was good at goodbyes. I would leave notes to those that I was leaving, ensuring a proper farewell with nothing left unsaid and my gratitude for the time openly expressed. I still aspire to these things, but as my goodbyes have increased over the last few months and it is harder to be sure about when I will see people next, I’ve lost the sense that I know how to handle such moments.

There is a good chance I will return to Albuquerque in the next two years since my brother and sister in-law will still be living there. But even still, it will be awhile. I certainly won’t live there ever again (no offense to those that do). So what is there to say when you depart a place like that?

Maybe this: Have a great winter, don’t ever change! Actually do change. You’ve got some things to work on New Mexico. But I liked your open spaces, so don’t change those. You are a land of deserts and mountains, both horizontal and vertical expanse, the dry and the dense. I also appreciated your openness to us refugees or weirdos or anyone who needs a place to just be for awhile. So thanks for taking me in Albuquerque, but also thanks for letting me leave.

To those two wonderful people who let me live in their spare room all summer – I already wrote you a nice personal note. We can keep some things to ourselves. But just so everyone knows, there are some gems hiding out in Albuquerque and I get to call them family.

One way or another, goodbyes are important. If we try to avoid them, the thoughts and feelings still linger in the swirling. Those heavy things we put off do not disappear, no matter how busy life becomes. The good news for a goodbye is that it is never too late to express the things we should’ve could’ve would’ve said. Though the world vaults us apart and we lean forward to the next crazy venture, going away doesn’t always mean forgetting. We can recognize what we’ve left behind and also what we took away. Don’t be afraid to say goodbye, whether its good or bad it is important to recognize transitions–if only so we can recognize the foundation vaulting us into a new beginning.

How do you feel about goodbyes?

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