Becoming a Goodbye Girl

This post has been a long time coming. All week, I’ve been trying to write it … just trying to write something, anything actually. I didn’t have the emotional energy to do it, much less the time to sit down and focus on turning mixed-up emotions into coherent words.

I suppose this was because all week I was busy saying goodbye. Goodbye to my three children who headed out to Germany for a six week adventure with their dad. Goodbye to my neighbor who passed away suddenly. Goodbye to the sounds and scenes I’ve come to know and love … the chaotic house will now be quieter without three of my beloved noise-makers; the neighborhood will seem a little lonelier without the familiar sight of my neighbor sitting under his driveway in the afternoons.

Goodbyes have never been easy for me. I’m much more of a hello sort of person.

I’d be willing to bet if you were sitting here with me and we were discussing my thoughts over a cup of coffee, this would be the point at which my husband Jon would interject his opinion that this tendency of mine is due to the fact I am an extrovert.

I have never been convinced I am a truly committed extrovert at heart. Big groups, loud parties, introducing myself to complete strangers. These are not things I do well.

Yet, I don’t do alone well either. I like having people around me all the time, especially people I love. Small gatherings, happy dinners for a couple of friends, just hanging out with a special friend or two. These calmer sort of situations leave me feeling energized about life. I dread to see them come to an end.

The more I think about it, the more I suppose Jon has a point. Introverts never really mind goodbyes because at last they are alone, but for an extroverted person goodbyes can be quite painful as the goodbye signals letting go. Maybe, just maybe, my husband has pegged me correctly after all, for I am not a goodbye sort of girl at heart. I don’t even like saying goodbye to my family as I head out to go grocery shopping for an hour!

Jon, on the other hand, has always billed himself as an introvert. When he says this, I typically roll my eyes. You see, Jon loves a big party. He likes to be on stage, and does not have a problem with striking up a conversation with a complete stranger. But as he also is quick to point out, after a couple of hours, Jon is ready for the party to be over so he can come home and chill out.

One day this past week, Jon and I were talking about our neighbor’s death. I mentioned that already I missed seeing Mr. Prejean sitting outside. Many afternoons, I would walk over to speak with him as I went to check our mailbox.  Jon said, “I am sad he passed away, and I’m sure there will be moments I actually miss him. But I doubt I ever will think about it much. I mostly try to avoid our neighbors. Anything more than a quick hello means I have to actually engage for a moment.  The truth is I really would just rather be left alone.”

This was Jon talking. Jon, the introvert, who prefers goodbyes and alone time, because saying hello means letting someone into his little world and opening up himself to another person.

In that moment, I suddenly saw so clearly. Jon and I were two sides of the same coin. I didn’t mind letting people into my life, but I was unwilling to let them go.  On the other hand, Jon had a harder time with letting new people gain access to him, unwilling to open himself up to another person. One of us needing to learn the language of goodbye; the other to speak the language of hello.

Hello is the opportunity to reach out to someone else. Goodbye is the time to look inward and reflect. And in this world, we need to be able to do both. God uses each one for His purposes. One to spread His love to a world in need of a Savior. One to give His peace and love to our own souls.

Hellos and goodbyes are both a part of this life. Though I have a preference, one is not better than the other. Saying goodbye might not be something I enjoy, but I am learning there is a time for speaking the language of letting go.

To everything there is a season … ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

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Hello or goodbye? Which one do you prefer?