Goodbyes are rarely easy. I just said one to my partner as he was leaving for the airport. When I got back home, my heart hurt, and the space felt empty. So, I turned to my voice-activated device for company and asked the first question that came to mind:“
How do you say ‘goodbye’?”
The response was a light slap in the face: “I pronounce that ‘goodbye', but text-to-speech is always improving, and I might not have it quite right.”
No, you’re pronunciation is solid. It’s the empathy detection that still needs work.
My partner and I have been saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ for years. It’s part and parcel of a long-distance relationship. Sometimes we say it after only two days. Other times, the 'goodbyes' don't come until after three or four. This time, it was after a week and a half — the longest time we’ve shared.
Nevertheless, each time we get together, we know the ‘goodbye’ is coming. In the early days, I would tell him, “I have to say ‘goodbye’ to say ‘hello’ again.” It sounded cute at the time, and I still say it sometimes. Sadly, it’s nowhere near as comforting as it used to be.
I need a new way to say ‘goodbye’ — and not just say it, but metabolize the transition between the time we’re together … and the time we’re apart.
There’s also guidance on how to say ‘goodbye’ to your colleagues
("End with some parting advice that shows what a deep person you are. This can be a quote from Seth Godin or Steve Jobs, or a general statement about always learning, giving it your all, continuing to change the world and striving for greatness.” Um, maybe not.)
There’s even guidance on how to help children learn how to say ‘goodbye’
. It’s actually pretty close to the mark for adults too: “...what’s most important is for parents to give kids the confidence to move ahead. … the most important thing for any child to hear is, 'I believe you can do this.’”
It’s pretty darn important for adults to hear that too, actually.
William Bridges writes in his book Transitions
that, the period between beginnings and endings in our lives is a, “neutral zone [that] provides access to an angle of vision on life that one can get nowhere else. And it is a succession of such views over a lifetime that produces wisdom.”
If that’s indeed the case, I am drowning in a sea of wisdom.
Stanford’s Ed Batista writes for Harvard Business Review
that, when it comes to metabolizing the moments after an ending, “[t]here’s no predetermined recipe; the key is simply being thoughtful and intentional about what will allow us to access the wisdom that can be found there, while we make ready to move forward again.”
The piece is about saying goodbye to a group of friends, but this reached out to meet me: "You want to put everything into a little music box and open it up at will, seeing the tiny dancers spinning just the way they were when you left them. … 'If nothing ever changes,' we think, without even really thinking it, 'then maybe we can be young forever.'”
Is it Shakespeare? No. Does it matter? No, because I totally dig it.
I don’t recommend diving down internet rabbit holes mindlessly, but sometimes it helps you navigate the tender places by letting you see and feel that you’re not alone. Yes, confirmation bias is real, and critical reading is necessary. That doesn’t mean we can’t, in a moment of sadness or transition, look for music boxes, parental guidance, tongue-in-cheek professional advice or Engelbert Humperdink lyrics