Goodbyes are usually thought to be difficult, painful, awkward, and even gut wrenching. There are some goodbyes that are in fact final whether indicated by nature or the people involved in making the decisions to part ways. There are those goodbyes that are also part of everyday life—when one sends their significant other off to work, friends greet each other in the street in passing, or a parent wishes their child a good day at school while waiting at the bus stop. The intention is to always see each other again with normality—within hours as a new hello is bound to happen.
Goodbyes used to pain me. The very thought of being left behind would cause me great internal anxiety yet on the surface I learned how to keep my composure. It was easier to hide my sadness and avoid emoting outwardly…so I thought. It was one of the most vulnerable states that I perfectly detested. Learning how to keep a hard face seemed like the better option.
Before moving to Italy one year ago, it was time to say goodbye to my beloved family, treasured friends, colleagues, and everyone else in between. Brunches, dinners, parties, and many phone calls later, I spent quality time with those who have always been dear to my heart. I said goodbye to my job, my home, and my life in NYC. I said goodbye to the old version of myself…it was time to move on and create a life that awaited me across the Atlantic. It actually grew more painful to stay in the life I once had—one that didn’t authentically feel like the one I desired to live. When others would try to promote scare tactics, convince me to stay, or brush me off with an air of jealously, it no longer had impact. For many years I didn’t feel “at home” in the life I always knew and it was certainly time to leave after almost four years of planning for the move. As others expressed their sadness of “losing me”, I assured them that the longer I stayed, I would be no use to myself or them.
When the time came to leave my loved ones as it would be a while before the next visit or phone call, they would crumble, cry, and emote in my arms as we parted. Although I had my moments too, something profound happened. There was no longer a sense of dread and painful emotion, but rather an authentic ease and a sense of calm within me. At the moment of goodbye, I would steadily say, “It’s a gentle goodbye. It doesn’t have to be more than that.” By setting boundaries of allowing others and myself to enjoy the moment, to see each other clearly, and to share a sense of ease together in our parting of ways, it became more beautiful than difficult. More whole than broken.
Little did I know that upon my arrival to Italy, would I have to face one of the most heartbreaking goodbyes thus far. It was that of mutually deciding with my significant other that both of us were two different people with different life paths. It took a long distance relationship with the actual opportunity to live our story together only for it to end only months later. We both didn’t seem to expect it to go in this direction, but it did. We left each other better off than when we found each over five years ago. The goodbye that I dreaded the most was there before us. But within our last exchange, it got quiet. So peacefully quiet. “Marisa, life just doesn’t want this for us. But what I want is for you to receive all the love you need and deserve,” he sincerely whispered. “And I want that you find your happiness and balance…all that you’ve always been searching for,” I replied. There were no more words, but a strong embrace that lingered. It was time to let go…it was the most gentlest of goodbyes.
It’s the anticipation that holds us hostage, that makes us fear and dread what will happen afterwards, and knowing that someone or something must go (or perhaps we are that someone). But when one understands that everything is flux, nothing is permanent, and we all deserve to be free within ourselves, each goodbye can certainly be gentle—in everyday life and beyond.