Is There A Good Way To Say Goodbye?

Not really. Be mindful of the word.

I’m on the phone and I’m talking with my family or friends. We’ve had a good, long talk, and then there’s that awkward moment in time when we part ways for just a little while.

“I love you. Talk to soon.”

“We’ll talk again sometime.”

“See you later, alligator.”

I make a point to never say goodbye unless I really think we’re not going to see each other again. In my mind, the word “goodbye” means we’re done. It means to me, I’ll never see you again. We could leave on good terms or not. But if I am going to say goodbye, I reserve that word only for times that I truly believe that we won’t talk to or see each other again.

Maybe I got it wrong. Maybe it doesn’t mean what I think it means. But long ago, I got this bug in my ear that says, “Goodbye means this is the last time I will ever see you again.”

So I delay what appears to be inevitable. I know that at some point, I will be separated from the people I hold dear to me. I know that at some point, I really will say goodbye. And I might not have any control over that moment when it comes. But it will come.

When I finish a conversation with anyone, I use any word other than “goodbye”. I do this with an intention that I will see them one more time, I will talk with them one more time, I will have an update on my life to give, one more time. I will get to know them a little better, next time. There is always the next time until there is not.

I used to attend group counseling. I was in my late 20s still trying to figure out who I was and what I was about. I was very confused then, I’m just less confused now. But I will always remember what the counselor said. At the end of the meeting, we’d all put our arms around each other’s shoulders in a circle, and he’d say, “Look around at the people in this circle. If you have something to say to someone else, say it now. Tomorrow, one of them might get hit by a bus and you‘ll miss your chance to say what you needed to say.”

I’m like that with everyone. I don’t talk about it, though. I just keep in mind that this could be the last time. It’s way back there in my subconscious. Tucked away in the corner as a constant reminder to say what I need to say, and say it now. I am mindful to say what is most important to me, right now.

Nobody expects to be in an accident. Nobody expects to be in a natural disaster. Nobody expects to be a part of a major event that could send them far away from friends or loved ones. But it happens. Every day I see the news. I see the upheavals, the uprisings, the earth doing its work. We are all subject to the earth and its movements. No one is immune.

I live a life of relative peace. I live with a guided intention for peace. Part of that peace is for me to say what I need to say, and say it now. I never know if I will have that chance again.

I’m an optimist. So I tend to think that I will have that chance again, to see you, to talk with you, to get closer. I want to believe that things will work out, so I have faith. I have faith that things will work out. I don’t believe that things will work out, I just have faith, a kind of reserved judgment about outcomes. I wait to see what happens next.

I don’t do things to make something else happen. I have no way of knowing for sure. I can assess probabilities. I can make educated guesses. But I cannot predict with certainty what will happen next. I’m no Frank Cadillac.

So when I’m speaking with friends and family, I’m mindful of my words. I avoid saying anything I’d regret later. I don’t use the word divorce lightly, so I never say that I want a divorce unless I really mean it. If you show up, I show up. I don’t say things to antagonize my friends because I value my friendships. I don’t say things to antagonize anyone because I value my peace. I choose to err on the side of peace. Every moment of every day.

I don’t say goodbye unless I really mean it. I guide my intention to see you again. I say, “See you later, Alligator.”

Write on.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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