To Say Goodbye

We’ve said good bye to a year and a town. 2015 is over and people around the world bid farewell to the old, and developed aspirations for the new. In Mindo, it’s part of the culture for folks to build paper matche effigies of themselves- or buy puppets of the Simpsons or Chuckie (evil doll with a knife), or build bodies from saw dust and place masks on them- then burn them at midnight. It represents the old life dying away, I think. Also, there is one hour where men dress up as women and dance in the town square. I can tell you my philosophies on what that means, but I’ll refrain.

I’m very pleased that we lived in Mindo for 5 weeks and were able to participate in such a fun and interesting new year celebration, and more profoundly, to live in a connected way with the community. I also look back deliciously, and with some bad taste, on what 2015 brought to me. I am happy to say goodbye to 2015 and goodbye to Mindo.

We have many complex experiences around saying goodbye. My long time friend, Amy, teases me about how abruptly I say goodbye when it’s time to get off the phone. We both know the conversation is over, so I simply say, “alright, bye, talk to you later” and hang up. Amy prefers to take leave in a lengthier fashion. She prefers: “Good to talk to you. Hope you have a good weekend. Take care. Let’s talk again soon. Thanks for calling. Good-bye for now. See you later.” But we know it’s over, I exclaim. Let’s just say good-bye, I assert. She insists that it’s too harsh that way, and that it’s best to ease into these kinds of things.

We certainly eased into our good-byes in Mindo. Once we decided not to stay for the entire month of January, we had more than a handful of conversations where we explained to our acquaintances and connections that we would be departing from Mindo 4 weeks earlier than we originally planned. Then, we had more donations that we had to distribute to families and the school. There were bus tickets to buy, things to pack (too many things) and a house to tidy as to leave in a proper state. Then again, there were explanations to offer. Why were we leaving earlier than anticipated? Because we want to travel more, we answered. This good-bye lingered, leaving me a bit antsy.

To say good bye to the old year, we may choose to simply flip the page on our calendars and struggle with remembering to write 2016 rather than 2015 when we sign the date. Or, we may write resolutions for the coming year, putting into mind and word what we hope to see in our lives. Perhaps we gather with friends, write letters then burn them, or spend lots-of time building a puppet version of ourselves to light aflame at midnight. Many folks my age or older are applauding themselves on Facebook for making it to midnight before falling asleep. Even more don’t even try that!

Goodbyes are complex because they mean we are leaving, or somebody is leaving us. How can I love you and still say goodbye? How can an employee respect her colleagues and still choose to leave? How can a mom want to be with her family and still want to be alone at times? How can a lover end the relationship? How can that person die on me, dammit?!

We have all heard that saying goodbye to the old is how we make room for the new. Okay, this makes sense. The old year must pass away for the new year to begin. The old habits must go away to make room for new (hopefully more growthful and healthful habits). The lover must leave so we can evolve, the mom must leave so she can rest and know herself. That beloved must die so that the life cycle may continue. We’ve heard these reasons.

We must say goodbye to our little wooden, open-air style home in Mindo so we can see more of Latin America. We only have 3 months of 1 of them was spent in this tiny town.

It occurs to me now, though, that to say good bye is more than making space for the new or allowing for change and growth.

To say goodbye is to honor the independence of the person, the relationship, the thing.
To take a thoughtful departure is to see what the other has to offer, to take it in, then to take leave. To depart is to acknowledge that the beings have once been united, that the connection was once solid and physical, and that it was real. To say good bye is to acknowledge that connection, then to end it.

We blow out the candle. We let the fire go out. The light is no longer needed, there is no longer any fuel. Only a person gone mad (or, granted, a very cold person) tries to revive a fire that smolders with only old coals and no more wood. Only a fool tries to use melted wax to light the wick. We see what once was, we hold it tenderly or with an iron fist, but it leaves us nonetheless, and we must release, we have no other sane option.

 

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Me standing in front of a burning effigy on the main street of Mindo on New Years Eve

 

We may not understand fully why others leave us or why we choose to leave people and towns and jobs and lovers and friendships and situations. We have the reasons we tell others, and the reasons we tell ourselves in the privacy of our own minds. Sometimes the stories overlap and sometimes they contradict. Either way, the leave-taking is a ritual of acknowledgement. We must look at that which we will depart from and say, “I see you, and now we depart, and that is complicated and private and meaningful.”

Together, around the world, we said goodbye to 2015, the year that brought us all victories and defeats, joys and injuries, or simply the ho-dum of a stable and predictable life. We look at it in a reflective way, if we are to embark on the new year thoughtfully. In parallel, my family says goodbye to Mindo. Her relentless dank damp moisture. Her insects and street dogs and roosters. Her friendly people who rarely pass on the street without offering a greeting. Her rushing rivers and darting hummingbirds. Her unfinished dirt streets littered with dog poop and snails and dead frogs. Her sheer vertical luscious cliffs, adorned with clouds. We do this by looking at her and all she offered, thanking her for what she gave, holding to our private and public stories, engaging in all the leave-taking rituals until it’s almost awkward, then we walk away, with our faces toward the burning Ecuadorian sun and our hearts open to what may come next.

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One Response to “To Say Goodbye”

  1. Ellen says:

    Blessed be and good bye…(a contraction of “God be with you”), may your new year be adventurous and interesting, fun and joyous, merry and bright.
    Love to all of the Martins

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