Saying Goodbye and Saying Hello
It is a challenge for us to let go and start again. Saying goodbye and saying hello are not things we do easily.
Sometimes it is people. We find ourselves in relationships with people and do not know how to get out. It is easier for us to hold on, wanting to avoid the pain and loneliness which come with saying goodbye.
Most of us can share the story of a friendship or another relationship which went on longer than was healthy. We knew, eventually, it was not a good relationship for us, but we believed we could make it better. There were so many things we felt we would miss about the other person which kept us staying around too long.
We believed things would get better again if only we gave them a little more time. Our reluctance to say goodbye works like inertia and does not help us in the long run.
Sometimes it is what we believe. We like feeling we understand how life works. It is easier for us to put more energy into defending what we believe than into exploring new approaches. We may have forgotten how we came to believe what we believe.
It is easy to wrap ourselves around our opinions and beliefs and hold on with everything we have. Saying goodbye and saying hello to something new takes too much work.
We take comfort in knowing and being known. Whether it is people or ideas or what we believe, we draw strength from what is familiar.
Saying goodbye and saying hello to something else feels too much like we have failed.
We prefer the comfort of believing we know to the joy and excitement of learning something new. Embracing what we have feels safer than opening ourselves to something else.
A Year of Saying Goodbye and Saying Hello
Many of us have spent the last year saying goodbye and saying hello. We have said farewell to what we thought was normal life and spent months finding and adjusting to something new.
Some of us said goodbye to jobs we loved and the people with whom we worked. We may have learned to say goodbye to dreams and expectations we had held for years.
Others of us said goodbye to our own health, or to people we love. We may have had a long, hard year of saying goodbye every morning and every evening.
This year has been particularly challenging because its lessons were dramatic. We had little time to learn how to adjust, little time to find ways to say goodbye.
I have heard many people talking about the old normal and the new normal this year. It is difficult for many of us to recognize how different our new normal might be. This year of saying goodbye and saying hello is changing many parts of our lives in a particularly short period of time.
Many of us have put so much effort into saying goodbye we have almost ignored saying hello.
Our year has been full of loss and frustration. At the same time, new insights and wisdom are struggling to get our attention and introduce themselves.
The year since the pandemic began has been an unexpectedly contemplative time for many of us. People have told me they have had opportunities to take time to listen, to themselves and to each other. Others have described how spiritual life has deepened and grown within them during this year.
We are learning how to listen like the monks I know at New Camaldoli Hermitage. Now there is time for us.
Spiritual Life is Saying Goodbye and Saying Hello
Spiritual life is alive within us and in the world around us, even when we might not feel it.
Like this past year, spiritual life is working in us to defy our expectations. We may expect spiritual life to comfort us and make us feel better. In fact, spiritual life is working to wear away what we expect and show us something new.
Spiritual life is about saying goodbye and saying hello to something we do not expect. It is challenging, as spiritual life grows in us, to continue saying goodbye and saying hello.
Each day brings new challenges, new people and beliefs we are convinced we need to hold onto as tightly as we can. It sometimes feels like nothing is certain, nothing is safe.
We begin to feel anxious and uncertain and afraid. What can we hold onto to protect ourselves?
Our lives are not about accumulating and acquiring as much as we can, holding onto more than anyone else. Spiritual life is teaching us the value of saying goodbye and saying hello.
I am coming to appreciate how crucial saying goodbye and saying hello are to us.
We Are Saying Goodbye and Saying Hello
People who want to become trapeze acrobats practice to develop their skills. They learn how to balance and how to land in a safety net when they fall. The hours they spend practicing and the skills they build are all focused on one thing. Everything they practice is designed to help them fly through the air.
Acrobats do not practice so they can become the best at landing in the safety net. The hours they spend practicing are about saying goodbye to a trapeze and saying hello to flying.
The time we spend practicing contemplation every day is about saying goodbye and saying hello.
We learn to say goodbye to what holds us back and to say hello to flying. No longer tethered to the ground or a chair we fly away, saying goodbye and saying hello.
Each day, each moment, we have a choice. Some of us choose to stay entwined in the embrace of what is familiar and comfortable. Others of us choose to practice saying goodbye and saying hello.
How will we practice saying goodbye and saying hello today?
What will we begin to explore by saying goodbye and saying hello this week?
[Image by marneejill]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He has served as an assistant district attorney, an associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.