So your favourite track is playing and suddenly at the wistful finale, there’s a loud noise or the track itself glitches. Or at the end of a delectable dish, much to your dismay, there’s a bitter taste that lingers well beyond the tantalizing taste before it. Or worse yet, you end a business, social or personal relationship and words are said and unkind actions are intentionally flung that sting, and remain. For years.
Instead of doing my usual, albeit somewhat private, whine about the lack of culinary justice or auditory peace making or ships that sink in the night, I’ve been reflecting.
After observing some less than gracious goodbyes and wondering about root causes for the figurative root canals that are given often without pain medication, I still haven’t figured out why we are so reckless with goodbyes. Conversely, I do think that we can be far too careless with hellos, but that’s for another day. How we exit is as important as how we enter, isn’t it?
We usually greet each other with smiles and a cheery hello. A difficult goodbye comes with mixed emotions and barbed language, maybe even a kick in the shins here or there. Maybe all of this started with the division between the actual words hello and goodbye. Let’s blame linguistic issues for our obvious lack of grace. At least for the moment.
In English, we say hello and goodbye, as many other languages do. Hello is hope. Hope for what may be, the promise of new, and the faith that what comes next is going to rock your world rather than throw rocks at you. At its minimum, it is a greeting of courtesy.
Not so with goodbyes. Tears, tumult and tantrums accompany sendoffs. “Don’t let the door hit your behind on your way out” types of interactions are what often come to mind.
Does goodbye really have to mean the death of hello? I’m not sure that it has to. I believe it can simply mean an acknowledgement of completion. Even when the other person does not choose to exit kindly. Even when you have to run out the door. Even when somebody slams the door in your face. Especially when you realize that a goodbye can herald the next hello.
You don’t have to live very long before you witness some brutal exits, unnecessarily cruel. So what is it about entrances and exits that is really tugging at my heartstrings?
Interior decoration matters. It’s not just monkeying around with designer fabrics and trinkets. Foyers matter, really they do. Comfortable chairs with personalized and meaningful artwork clearly speaks to the “people first” directive. The foyer is often representative of the greeting one may receive and hopefully that is a warm welcome and a thoughtful hello. The foyer doesn’t have to be always about the “hello”, what if we thought about the foyer as a place for both hello and goodbye. Would that change how we approached exits of all kinds?
I am no linguist, I am an idealist, grasping for meaningful connections and symbolism across all of my life. I believe there’s a culture we need to cultivate, some wisdom to borrow from our Hawaiian friends who use Aloha for both hello and goodbye. Obviously, a word can be said with a tone that is less kind. I am suggesting that we reconsider, at least internally, that we can choose to have a goodbye feel like a hello.
In Finnish, the word for hello and the word for goodbye is the same, except doubled. Hei is hello and hei hei is goodbye. What a concept! A double hello. Maybe even a double blessing?
I wonder what would happen if the next time I said goodbye, whether formally or informally, I considered it the song of hello. And be like the Finnish, double it. I could choose to double the blessing by adding grace and kindness even where there has been little given. Throw in a dash of welcome rather than throwing the mat as I exit.
If you’re smarter than the average bear, you’ll realize that I been on the “backhand” of some not so sweet goodbyes. If you’re perceptive, you’ll realize that I have also willingly and unwittingly, sometimes at the same time, given some not so unkind farewells. If you’re honest and wise, you will agree that you yourself have also likely committed or permitted the same farewells that were neither fair nor well meaning.
In these days where kindness and generosity are so needed, wouldn’t it be transformative to add that to our culture of hello and goodbye? Does being gracious render justice null and void? I think we have inadvertently chosen avoidance as the poor substitute for the hard work of grace. It’s the “rage-quit”. Get mad when dishes are undone, TV remains on TSN for the millionth hour, then leave the room with a snack and a bad attitude. I didn’t create the term, my eldest did. And it’s the term that he coined as he observed my lack of maturity. Which shows up way more often than I would like. Such as the other day when I was angry with my youngest because he forgot something at home, read him the riot act and then discovered I had left my phone on the counter. Deep sigh…parenting is so good for my character development.
What if we choose to give a blessing in the goodbye, regardless of the reaction? Just say no to “rage-quitting”! If there is a reason for the goodbye that involves necessary and important justice, simply acknowledge the truth without adding excess pepper to the pot. What my mom said is true, what people say about you says more about them than it does you. Please do not think that for one second I am being simplistic. I have experienced some unnecessarily cruel exits that sat me on my heels for longer than I expected or desired. I guess that’s what has helped me realize that my freedom means more to me than hanging on to the aftertaste of a bad goodbye. Applying grace and forgiveness allows me to say hello and goodbye with more peace. Being wise with my hello reduces the amount of opportunities to deal with nasty goodbyes.
Hei Ho, Hei Ho, it’s off to internal work I go. To bond without glue and disconnect without electric shock might be something to consider. Maybe it’s not always possible, but couldn’t it be more often than not? Is that a safe ground for both pessimist/realist and idealist? I think I might just borrow a chorus from Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart, adjust it slightly and sing…
Hei, hei, be the monkees
And people say I monkey around
But I’m too busy singing
To put anybody down.
This approach is neither frivolous or cavalier. I would suggest that it is downright dangerous. How much courage would we need to live on the wildlife side and spend more time planning to add grace, forgiveness and even blessing to each hello and goodbye? I’ve sometimes viewed the “don’t burn bridges” as porridge. Not the amazing Scottish porridge I love, but the kind that is lumpy, sticky and unappetizing. Can’t you just say what you want to say? Mean what you mean when you say what you say without being mean? Just play nice! Because not everyone plays nice on the playground, nice is not always realistic.
I am no politician as anyone close to me will readily say. Speaking the truth in love is a daunting task. I believe that it’s worth it. Avoiding pain and suffering is way more dangerous than tackling the internal work of examining my own motives and becoming more selfless. Avoiding difficulty stunts internal growth. While there may pains that have never healed that continue to wreak havoc and terrorize one into thinking that running away is easier, it’s not. It blocks the joy in life and perpetuates the roller coaster of discontent. Perfect love casts out fear. I think that if we spend more time on love, we will have less room for fear. I think that is a practical principle not an idealistic one.
Without further ado or adieu, I’m going to suggest we start a revolution of a revolving door approach. The key to this door is to do whatever we can to ensure that the same kindness and grace that we apply to a hello will be applied to the goodbye. Reflect instead of deflect without being the mat of the welcome mat.
Try. And fail. And say sorry. And try. And fail. And say sorry. And try. The main thing is to try and to say sorry. The failing part is inevitable. After all, we are human. To err is to human. I think the biggest error is thinking that we can avoid erring. The joy comes with the forgiveness received and given. The beauty is in the perseverance.
The strength to do this – well, that comes from God. So does the grace and the joy and the peace and the possibility.
Aloha! Blessings on your next hello and goodbye!
(c) Sandra Foster, Ranenpur, February 2, 2014
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