Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Resonance of Goodbye

I feel like I've been saying goodbye a lot lately. None of it has been terribly racing-beside-a-departing-train-while-holding-my-jaunty-hat-and-straining-to-hold-a-loved-one's-hand romantic either. Much of it has transpired without pageantry. A once close high school friend dying suddenly, a treasured colleague leaving to work his magic at a new school, teenager #2 leaving the Middle School where I so enjoyed teaching him to begin High school, teenager #1 leaving one High School to try another. And I must say, self-indulgently perhaps, that I find myself mourning a bit.

I have always been a fan of change. I think it's essential. I think it becomes what you make of it. I think no matter how small(trying a new spaghetti sauce) or how large(becoming an astronaut) it is an act of bravery that dares to imagine "what else is possible." Any change, however, whether it is planned or beyond your control necessitates letting something go. And any way you slice that, it's hard. Even if it's a welcome change, like teenager #1's is to him, there is still  a sense of leaving the familiar where you understand the normal of that world and venturing into someplace uncertain.

And there's been a lot of leaving the familiar for me of late. So. I've been pondering goodbye.

I don't know everything, but I've lived long enough to figure out that it is possible to survive even the hardest goodbyes, or at least the hardest I've faced so far. And despite the existence of this blog, I am not a big dweller. Over the last few weeks however, I have found myself feeling. Mainly sad, sometimes scared, a little bit relieved and even jealous; but mostly just full up with feeling the many intricacies that led up to and have been triggered by these goodbyes. And I am struck with the need to sit in the space that these goodbyes are creating. To just sit and listen to the resonance of goodbye, with no expectation of feeling better or wallowing in worse. Just to be present with the holes that goodbyes leave behind; holes that contain memories and lost hopes, sometimes anger and regret, and in time, smiles and gratitude. But they are holes nonetheless, that never quite get filled up.

And now I am thinking about metaphors to musical instruments and orchestrations of life's symphony, and feeling embarrassed by a striking resemblance to a Hallmark channel holiday special.

So get to the point. Goodbyes are hard, and though we are better for knowing that person or having had that experience, small emptinesses appear each time we say goodbye to something or someone. And we try to minimize them with assurances of keeping in touch, and positive reinforcements that change is good and confident statements like "he's totally ready for this," and the validity of those statements is not necessarily undermined by the fact that they are often a coping mechanism. In fact, perhaps optimism and faith build the bridge between what is familiar and what is uncertain.

So I'm going back to the music metaphor, deal with it. Because all of these spaces created by something or someone leaving makes for a much more interesting potential of sound, and echoes, and (let's go there with the title) resonance. They build an intricate structure which actually prevents us from falling apart. They contribute to who we become, and, I believe, makes us stronger for the vulnerability they expose.

So, to come to the end of this particular Hallmark very special episode, I will simply say that the resonance of goodbye is not displeasing, it is the part of the soundtrack when strings and piano and silence blend to a moment of notability; a moment that shifts the story; a moment that has the potential to make a better movie. And it's summer folks, aren't we all looking for a better movie?


  1. I am so with you on this, Mary. And, I am trying really hard to believe that some of the empty spaces will be filled with interesting - never better - but new sounds. Definitely enough goodbyes for a while...

  2. I like what you say about sitting with the feeling that goodbyes create. "Like how long should I sit?" I ask. Because some goodbyes just get deeper, not easier. Still, each chocolate chips won't make it better, nor will a very long walk, nor will pretending it's all fine. I think there is a lifetime sit with some goodbyes. And their nature changes, but the change the goodbye creates reverberates.

    1. Great point Jane. Thanks for your thoughts.