Goodbyes are strange.
Think back to a time when you saw someone for the last time. Most likely, you didn’t know that would be the last time you got to see that person. You didn’t know that was the last time you’d have their full attention, standing right in front of you. You didn’t know that would be the last time you’d have the chance to say everything you needed to say to them. In fact, you were probably afraid to so you just said your goodbyes and walked away.
Well, if you’re an over-thinker like me, you’ve had those moments in life and you’ve replayed them a couple (hundred) of times. You’ve wondered if you could go back to that very moment when you were standing in front of them, would you say what you needed to say? You wonder if it would have changed anything.
I’m slowly sifting through my “what ifs.” Let me tell you, they are heavy and they are hard to sit with. The truth is, none of us can ever go back. But something that is so strange to me is how vividly I can remember so many of the goodbyes. I can remember standing in front of people, and maybe I wasn’t fully aware that would be the last time, but I think somehow I felt it as I looked them in the eyes for the last time.
If this is sounding weird to you, just bear with me. I promise there is a point to all of this.
Recently, while saying goodbye to someone, I was gifted a book. It was on a whim as they were off to a trip of a lifetime. We were having a conversation about the trip and how he was kind of nervous about it. It sounded like an amazing opportunity to me (although I wasn’t the one with the pressure on me so I’m sure that made a huge difference). I reached into my bag and gave him my leather bookmark that I’d stamped the words “Without Fear” on and he in turn quickly ran through a bookshelf in another room and came back with a book.
The book was The Viking Book of Aphorisms A Personal Selection by W. H. Auden and Louis Kronenberger.
Over the past couple of days, I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to write about next here because the projects I’m currently working on aren’t at the sharing stage just yet, so I pulled out that book. I flipped to a random page and this is what stood out to me:
“Men who pass most comfortably through the world are those who possess good digestions and hard hearts.” ~Harriet Martineau
What I quickly realized was that this book is going to take care of any writer’s block I may encounter for the foreseeable future.
Lately, I’ve been revisiting a goodbye that occurred in a Starbucks parking lot many years ago. Oddly enough, or due to my love of coffee, maybe it’s not odd at all, but quite a few of my most memorable goodbyes have occurred in a Starbucks parking lot. Anyway, I find myself trying to go back and decode life events. I guess I feel like if I can understand why things happened, it would be easier to move on. I seem to carry around this bag of unsolved case files like I’m some kind of detective. I’m still torn on if that works or not. In a way, I’ve done enough revisiting that there have been a lot of things I’ve made peace with. However, there are a few things I think will just have to be left in the “Unsolved” folders and packed away like the cold cases they are.
When I read that quote, I thought of a goodbye in which someone told me I had a good heart…but then called me by another girl’s name. I apologize in advance, but I have to insert a joke here because this is just one of those moments that I still can’t believe happened. So, if you know who Larry David is, in that moment, as he was hugging me and said that, I just backed away slowly and I’m pretty sure my face looked an awful lot like one of those Larry Gifs. I just stood there and slowly raised my arm to point to my door, and he quietly left.
That was not the last time I saw him, but it certainly put that goodbye into some cement for me.
As I look back at all the times I’ve been told I have a good heart, I also look back and see how many people have let me go, seemingly so easily.
I’ve had people who told me a lot of things, but they always ended up saying, “Goodbye.”
On a side note, but that is still related to all of this, June 30th will always be a date that stands out for me. On this day, 17 years ago (still hard to wrap my head around that), I packed up whatever could fit into my Civic, and with $200 to my name, I left Valdosta, GA and after making one last stop at my old Starbucks–that stop was also not without an adventure–made my way to Atlanta. I was scared out of my mind. But there were a lot of goodbyes had that I had no way of knowing would leave such a mark when I left. It’s exactly what life is all about though. You can’t just sit. You have to move along and discover. You aren’t given the benefit of knowing before you jump…you just have to jump. Are there things I would do differently? Absolutely. But it’s also hard because I have no idea how my life would have been if I hadn’t jumped.
If you don’t think I haven’t toyed with the idea of wondering how differently my life would have been if I had a hard heart, I have. Over the last year especially. I have sat with these case files and I have poured over the conversations and the actions (or non-actions) on my part. I’ve sat with the thoughts of what it would have been like if I could have treated people like they treated me or what if I’d had more self worth and would have had my standards raised up to where they truly belonged.
Sometimes, I wonder if I hadn’t tried so hard…
But then I am always reminded of how my soft heart gets refilled with joy from the simplest of things. The poor thing gets crushed, but then something will happen that puts it back the way it belongs again. For all the insanely unfair things that it has witnessed, it has also witnessed an equal amount of insanely amazing things.
So, when I think through all of the hurt, and the times I wished for a hardened heart so people couldn’t hurt me anymore, I always take it back because I can’t fathom not being able to feel the good things as deeply as I am able to. Being able to cry at concerts because the music is wrapping around my hair, or that I get excited over the simplest of things like meteor showers or the ocean or someone sending me a thank you note.
Nope. They can keep the hard hearts. Life will just have to not be easy for me…but I’m starting to file those old folders away and I’m starting to repack those bags with the folders of all the times I was so happy my heart couldn’t hold it all.
Maybe the point of all of this is that if you too are one of the ones with a soft heart that people fumble without care, just be thankful you can feel. I believe being able to feel is the only way to truly live out your purpose. And you are here to do something good. Don’t waste it by wishing it away.