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The Sunday Sermon; You say Hello, I wave Goodbye.

It is fair to say I am not good at endings, I have moved entire continents without telling people good bye. I am better than I used to be, largely I think because I know why I am so poor at goodbyes, and attempted to avoid them at all costs. I know I am not alone, there seem to be many people who associate endings with pain, and so do anything they can to avoid them.

There are two sorts of endings, planned and unplanned. It may seem like we can only do something about the first, but of course that simply isn’t true. How we feel about endings generally, and about our life up to that point hugely influences how we deal with unplanned endings.  When there is a sudden death so often the reaction of those left behind is that there are things they wish they had said, or done. Unplanned endings leave a gap between how we wish the world was, and how it really is, forcing us to confront the little white lies we like to tell ourselves and others. We were so often not powerless, but prefer to pretend we were in order to continue the illusion there was no other way we could have acted, no words we could have had the courage to say.

Of course only some endings can be planned, but if like me you have attempted to avoid all endings then planned ones are exceptionally hard to achieve. The very word planning means assessment, forethought, a willingness to think about what comes next. For some people this seems to painful to do. The drawback of planned endings is we have to accept that there is no way to make everything perfect, loose ends are never completely tied up, and be OK with that.

When we begin anything it carries the seeds of its own ending, be it being born, marriage, job or simply friendship. We may like to hope that endings will never happen, but that illusion simply feeds patterns of unplanned endings and regrets. Even if we do not regret, we may leave others with things they wish they had said, denying them the opportunity to end things as they wished.

The old woman said; “You’ve heard of animals chewing off a leg to escape a trap? There’s an animal kind of trick. A human would remain in the trap, endure the pain, feigning death that he might kill the trapper and remove a threat to his kind.”

As Paul Atrides came to understand sometimes being human means accepting the pain we know about rather than trying to avoid it and causing untold and unknown  harm.


2 comments on “The Sunday Sermon; You say Hello, I wave Goodbye.

  1. Amanda
    July 6, 2014

    One of my kids realised the agony of goodbye at 11 months old. He, like any other baby, learned to wave when prompted when people left the house, or when we left somebody’s house. One day, just before he was a year old, I saw him look at his hand, and look at the friend leaving, looking upset, and refused to do it. He wouldn’t wave to order ever again.

    A year later he would sob at the end of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh when Tigger walks off dejected, banned from bouncing. Then even greater sobs when the video finished completely (“Pooh, gone! Ti, gone! Pi, gone!”).

    However, he learned to keep himself safe. He could cope with the ending of a video (just!) but people leaving was too overwhelming so he protected himself from the reality by not acknowledging it. I wondered whether this was an unhealthy thing but I believe that he found his coping mechanism early. No wrong or right, no functional versus dysfunctional. Just his way.

    Years later, a beautiful, sensitive teenager, he has learned to contain his emotions and do the societal expectation of saying goodbye conventionally.

    I think that endings are one of the tricky issues of human existence. We are acutely aware of what endings mean, thanks to our complex consciousness. And for some, endings are overwhelmingly difficult.


  2. Wickedjulia
    July 7, 2014

    I freely admit I suck at telling people that I am done with them. I much prefer to just walk away.


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This entry was posted on July 6, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , .

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