I’m cranky tonight. I would like to blame it on my children or my husband or any of the things I find completely irritating right now, but I know that the reality is I’m cranky because I am avoiding being sad.
I went to a goodbye party today. I don’t go to goodbye parties. It took me a while to figure that out. Living in San Diego with such a high military presence, there is a lot of coming and going. My first few years I didn’t notice it so much, but in recent years I have become more acutely aware of this phenomenon.
My kids started school about the same time we found a home at our church, and both of those communities mean the world to me. I am sure I encountered some pretty phenomenal people before then, but somehow the friends I have met in the last seven years have wormed their way especially deep in my heart.
It could be that the last seven years have been a sort of awakening for me. My friend Linsey would call these years extremely “formative”. I agree. My views of myself and God and the world around me have changed. New and different pieces of me have somehow come alive.
And so I think perhaps in addition to having some extraordinary people come into my life, I have also let them into me in a way that is different than before. As I have grown deeper within myself, my capacity to love others has grown deeper too.
And once I let people in, I don’t like for them to move away. Relationships change with distance. They change anyway, but distance makes me aware of the change. So I have watched myself over the years when I get emails inviting me to goodbye parties. I open the email and think I should go to this. People know you care when you go to their goodbye party, and I care very much for these people. I should go. But somehow I don’t RSVP right away and then the email slips down to where I can’t see it anymore and I “forget” about it.
Except that I don’t forget. I might forget the date, but every time I see that person I remember they have that goodbye party coming up, and I should go or at least RSVP one way or the other. Then the day comes and goes and I hear other friends refer to the party and I think Oh crap! I forgot to go to that. And I didn’t even RSVP.
Eventually I figured out that even with my very good intentions, I don’t make it to goodbye parties, so I should really just start RSVPing no when I get the invites so that at least I’m not being rude to the host. But if I RSVP, my unconscious has to admit to my conscious that the goodbye party is actually happening and that is the whole reason I don’t go to goodbye parties in the first place. Denial.
I have been in San Diego long enough to know that people who go sometimes come back, and if I don’t acknowledge that they are leaving, I can just pretend they are on a very long vacation. Then I never have to face being sad that they left in the first place. So I seem to go on avoiding both parties and RSVPs in order to stay in my dream land that the people I have let into my heart, perhaps more than they know, are not really gone.
But this one I could not avoid. This is a friend I hold especially dear in my heart. No matter how much my subconscious may try to deny, my conscious will notice she is gone. Even though we don’t see each other as much as we used to because our kids are older and as much as we thought we would have more time in this stage, somehow it seems like less. But even with fewer points of connection, the depth of the friendship has remained. Besides, it will not be my schedule that notices she’s across the country. It will be my heart.
I forced myself to RSVP yes, mark the calendar, and make a specific point to be there. Even with all of that, I felt my heals dragging on party day. Once we were on the road, I could barely keep the tears from spilling out of my eyes. See! This is why I don’t go to these stupid things! I regained composure for about the fifth time on the short drive there and then I started seeing big red signs with the family’s name and arrows directing us where to go. Thank you. I am trying to avoid thinking about where I am going right now and these big red signs are not helpful in that endevor!
Once we got there, I avoided saying hello to my friend who is moving. I chatted with everyone else possible. She knows about my aversion to goodbye parties. I told her in one of our soul-revealing conversations in her kitchen. I sure am going to miss those. She folds laundry or prepares dinners or washes dishes and I sit and we talk and ask questions and I learn more about myself and life from listening to her and from her listening to me. She is safety to me.
Eventually I got around to saying hello and giving her a hug and after I did I was able to pretend we were just at a fun get-together with all of our friends and the goodbye part didn’t seem like it was really happening. Until tonight when I realized I was cranky and snapping at my kids because I was avoiding being sad. It was then that I realized my computer was calling me to face what I don’t want to. Writing seems to be my lifeline to coping. So I sit here with tears streaming down my face. Because I am sad. So sad. And this seems to be the only way for me to admit it to myself.
Once again I think of the phrase, “Love hurts.” And once again I am reminded that the loving really doesn’t hurt. Loving my friend is easy and life giving. She’s amazing and beautiful and I am better for having her in my life. What hurts is when life takes someone I love and moves them across the country on an adventure I am so excited for them to have but across the country is not San Diego. And I am not capable of being in two places at once. And neither is she. Loving doesn’t hurt. Goodbyes hurt. That’s why I avoid them.