As I was preparing to move from Charlotte to Syracuse there were many goodbyes to be said. Some people asked me if I was going to have a going away party or if I wanted to have one. I had thought about the notion of a going away party before it was brought up so I already knew what my answer was going to be. In all cases I politely declined and tried to offer my reasons for that decision.
I’ve had going away parties given for me many times in the past, I have moved quite a bit after all. As I looked back on my memories of those events and how I felt afterwards in each instance I could recall I never quite felt right. There were many reasons for those feelings and there seemed to me to be a way to make it different this time.
First when I am in large groups of people it is difficult for me to keep up with the rapidly changing emotions, conversations, expectations of correct social responses, and trying to give every person as much of my self as possible. I am not able to do it, or if I do manage it I don’t feel as if I did and it is a fretful experience. It is something I am unable to manage with any degree of confidence. I may fool some people but I don’t fool myself. The cost is very high emotionally for me and that doesn’t even consider the grief aspect of departing from friends.
Then there is the fact that there are so many conversations wishing to be had but never quite getting had. Instead they simply become snippets of half begun interactions in competition with other snippets and in the end all there is is a collection of snippets that I’m guessing no one is completely satisfied with but accept as part of the landscape. The people I left behind in Charlotte and in other departures are more important than that. This time I tried to give it the kind of attention it deserves.
What I told people is I would like to have small conversations with people were we could go deeper than a snippet in competition with other snippets. Many of the people in Charlotte were also people with whom I had been on a deep spiritual journey with for many years, and they deserved more than a snippet, and frankly I needed more than a snippet.
Unfortunately due to the speed at which events unfolded I was left with less
time for these conversations than I had hoped for. I did manage to get most of them done and without a feeling of needing to get all the boxes checked.
The beauty of this for me was I could pay attention to each person. I could listen and I could share. In some cases they were conversations over meals, which always seems to make it easier to talk. They were quiet conversations. They were often tearful conversations. Most of all they were meaningful and memorable. They were truly going away gifts that each person gave to me, because it also took effort on their part as well.
None of us could hide behind a crowded room of other people. Each of us had no shield, not that anyone of them would have carried one. Even now as I write about it I am warmed by the memories and also sad at the losses they represent.
As I reflected on these conversations after each one I noticed something in myself. I might not have noticed it otherwise except the slow, deliberate, and intentional nature of these conversations invited me to reflect. I noticed that in every case I spoke more and spoke faster than I do normally. I shared this reflection with some and they did not have the same impression. So perhaps my impression of my self is inaccurate, or perhaps it was more subtle to others than to myself.
It took me a few conversations to realize what was going on. I was anxious, I was also trying to mask, or shield my grief and desire for these departures to not happen. On the last of my conversations I was with a young couple having dinner. I am sure they must have been tired, and eager to get home and rest from their long days at work. The husband probably had a ton of homework to complete or at least some reading assignment. Yet there we sat talking in frank open ways about deeply personal matters and doing so freely and with a deep connectedness. Now that is my impression, I can only guess theirs was similar because when it came time to say good bye we simply could not do it.
I am unsure how many times we said good by from the table to the car, they were numerous. Even when I mentioned that we had said good bye a number of times and we must be not wanting to end we still said it several more times. That is a gift I would never have received at a party. It was a gift they would not have been able to give either. And so in the end would any of us been completely satisfied with a snippet?
All too often in the course of our daily living we accept the snippets and move on. Perhaps we feel that is the best that we can receive and give. We are all under many time constraints due to the various circumstances of our lives. Yet is it the best we can do? Is it in our best interest and the best interest of those around us? I am going to try to say no it isn’t and then I am going to try to change things.
Deep conversations don’t need to accomplish anything other than connecting more deeply than a snippet. It means finding the time and attention to listen while setting aside for that conversation all the attention you can. I realize that at this stage of my life I have more time to give to this and many do not have that luxury. Yet why is it a luxury to pay attention, without allowing ourselves to be distracted, especially when all it means is giving someone some time out of our lives?
Are we ourselves not worth it? Is it really fulfilling to simply text someone a brief message and then move on? Is that the best we can expect for our lives, mere snippets? Is that the sum of our lives a snippet? I’d like to think it is not enough. I wonder what your thoughts are? Do you live and interact in snippets? Is it satisfying? Or have you become conditioned to a snippet of a life and don’t see an alternative? Perhaps we can have some conversations about this. I don’t propose to have all the answers, but I do propose to ask and explore.
I invite you to offer your thoughts in the comments.
The original post: Three Themes to Guide Me