How many times a day do you say goodbye?
In a life we often envision and plan for and treat as forward-moving, consistent and linear, it’s really more often one of constantly interrupted relationships — with people, with places, with ideas, with fantasies, with hopes.
This struck me on a recent trip to San Francisco, a city I had not visited since 1998, when I stayed with a friend working in Silicon Valley on my way home from a vacation in New Zealand.
I lost touch with that friend, who I’m deeply fond of, shortly thereafter and always hoped to see him again.
To do so, I emailed and then called the ex-beau who was our mutual friend back in 1996. The boy who broke my heart! But he and I are now both happily re-married and he readily put me back in touch with C, my friend.
What a joy it was to hear his voice again and to catch up on all those lost years. Who knew that our “goodbye” would last so long? I figured it was forever.
I stayed out there with a friend who is in her 70s and whose husband is 83. I wondered, when I said goodbye to them, if that was our last.
I’ll soon be finishing up eight weeks of post-operative physical therapy, working with a group of men and women I’ve known since 2000, when I had my first knee arthroscopy. Within 11 months after that one, I was back, having needed surgery on the other knee. So much for “goodbye”!
I returned there in May 2008 after right shoulder repair, in December 2009 to avoid left shoulder surgery and in August 2010 while I was on crutches. Crazy! (I’m normally very healthy. I just seem to have lousy orthopedic luck.)
But it’s been a pleasure to be welcomed back so warmly by people I like, who’ve twisted me like a pretzel and whose skills have helped me regain strength, stamina and mobility. I’ve watched them date, marry, have kids, graduate college. Who knows how long this next “goodbye” will last?
I attended summer camp ages 8 to 16, for eight weeks at a time, and our end-of-summer leave-takings were truly epic, with much weeping. It wasn’t just faux teenage drama. Sharing a cabin/tent/canoe/sailboat created a much deeper intimacy than some of us had with school-mates, even our own families in some cases.
And, oh, the glorious excitement as that bus, after a three-hour drive north from Toronto, finally pulled into the camp’s long gravel driveway the next summer.
Every time I leave Paris, I feel bereft and the last last time we arrived, I burst into tears of relief and joy that I had finally been able to afford to return.
And yet, the past 12 months have also taught me the powerful value of saying goodbye to several toxic relationships that were making me really unhappy, no matter what efforts I made. That wasted time and energy — reclaimed — has brought some lovely new people into my life, hello’s that have deeply enriched it.
Which do you say more often and why?