The quote goes that “people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you know what to do.”
Sounds good on paper, anyway. I get the first part, but the second part sometimes eludes me. But I’m a work in progress.
2012 has been a heavy goodbye year for me and mine (or, in some cases– those that used to be “mine”). On a more global scale, too, we’ve said far too many goodbyes and far sooner than we anticipated we’d be saying those words to those people.
When you’re traveling full time, as Jeremy and I did up until this year, you get a lot of practice saying goodbye. You say goodbye to your kids and grandkids when you hit the road for the first time. As the song goes (slightly reworded to suit my situation), you “pray the dark and deep won’t hurt them, while you sail with open arms.”
You say goodbye to people you meet on the road, to family and friends with whom you get to reconnect in person when your travels take you to their part of the world. You say goodbye to “the way things have always been done,” because when you’re in another land, you quickly find that “always” doesn’t apply.
You say goodbye. And you acknowledge that this is the life you have chosen–at least for now–and that into every life filled with adventures and hellos, a few goodbyes must fall. As long as I get to say hello to the man I married on a daily basis (so far he’s shown up at the breakfast table every day), then the other goodbyes are manageable.
But this year, we plopped ourselves in one spot–a spot where we intend to stay for the foreseeable future.
And we began to say hello to whole lot of things–stability, new friends, continuity, daily explorations that actually go beyond the surface, a new language, and the best damn mango smoothies I’ve ever had the pleasure of slurping.
You’d think I’d get rusty at saying good-bye. But noooooooooo. You gotta love that damn Universe’s sense of humor. What a hoot. Never let it be said that the Universe allows one to rest on their laurels in the goodbye department.
This year, I can think of three people to whom I’ve said goodbye that I hadn’t anticipated saying goodbye to. These people did not die; they did not move out of my geographic area (How nice! I actually have one of those now.); they did not simply fade away without me noticing that they were gone. Nope. These were definite “we’ve come to the end of our season (or maybe it was a reason) and it’s time to move on” goodbyes. And in a show of equitableness, one of the goodbyes was initiated by me, one was thrust upon me and one was mutually agreed upon. Don’t you just love it when the Universe wraps things up so neatly? Cosmic feng shui.
The goodbyes were not all acrimonious–although each of them had the potential to be. There may have been hurt feelings involved. Those were not the reason for the goodbyes, but rather the wolf in sheep’s clothing that brought the necessity of saying goodbye to the surface.
And with every goodbye, you take away from both it and the relationship that preceded it what you can, appreciate the joy and/or life lesson that the person brought into your life, hope you contributed something positive to the other’s life for the little or long while that you were a part of it. Maybe you grieve a little. Maybe you’re relieved. For me, it was both.
And on a larger scale? I don’t know why 2012 was the year that we had to say good-bye to 20 little souls and the six educators who watched over them to the death. Why goodbye had to be sobbed out by the families of 12 theater-goers in Aurora, Colorado. I don’t understand. Nor by the family of a woman gang-raped in India. I don’t think I’ve yet evolved enough to understand the reasons for those goodbyes.
I know it’s important to realize that things never stay the same. (Nothing like a couple of years of traveling to reinforce that lesson!) It’s equally important to get a grip on whether the people in (or tangential to) your life are there for a reason, a season or a lifetime. (Because it can be pure hell when you think it’s one and the other person believes its the other.)
Taken as individual occurrences, I am totally comfortable with the goodbyes that I said in 2012. There’s not one that I wish I had a “goodbye mulligan” for. No do-overs needed. And my life would have been lacking had the relationships with these folks not occurred, so there’s not one ounce of regret there.
Yet, it still feels that–in the aggregate–2012 was too heavy with goodbyes for me. It may have something to do with where I am in my life growth (duh—ya think? It actually had something to do with me???). I am less likely to tolerate myself or others (to use one of my daughter’s favorite expressions) getting shat upon, more drama-averse than I’ve ever been, and more willing to take an all or nothing stand on values that are important to me. I’ve also come to learn that goodbyes don’t kill us. Really truly! Even the ones you thought you’d never say voluntarily. They don’t necessarily make us stronger either (contrary to the popular expression). Sometimes they just are.
And that’s okay.
Nonetheless, I eagerly await 2013. I can’t wait for more hellos! I anticipate even more deepening of love for my husband, my family (which joyfully is allowing me the opportunity for yet more hellos with a new son-in-law and a new grandchild on the horizon) and my newly-adopted city and country. New acquaintances are becoming friends and there is much to be both thankful for and excited about in the upcoming year.
But Hey Universe! Let’s lighten up on the goodbyes for another twelve months or so. I’ve had my share.
Filed under: lessons from the road