Tag Archives: goodbye

Growing Pains: Saying Goodbye to the Place You Grew Up

“There comes a time in your life when you have to choose to turn the page, write another book or simply close it.” –Shannon L. Alder

Hello friend,

Last week, my kids and I had our annual “Favorite Week of the Year” trip to the lake to hang out with my wonderful family. It was fantastic, as always, but this time I definitely felt traces of sadness and loss coloring my usual lake-week serenity and happiness. These uninvited feelings came from a prospect that I have been denying for years and years: that we may have finally reached the end of our days at the family cabin.

When I was a kid, two of my great-uncles and aunts had cabins on the clearest, most magnificent lake I knew. It was a lake big enough to get lost on, but small enough to be found again. I would visit them every Summer and have a blast: swimming, waterskiing, fishing for “sunnies,” tubing, and riding a little motorbike in the forest land across the road. It was heavenly. Then, one year in elementary school, in a move that would come to shape my family’s history in so many happy ways, my Grandma and Grandpa bought an empty lot on the same lake, uniting my sweet Grandma with her two sisters.

My Grandpa, a carpenter by trade, did the most amazing thing that Summer: he had all of his grandkids help him build the little garage/cabin that would forever be the home base of the place, remaining an essential structure even as a bigger “real house” was added some years later. We all had hammers and nails and followed my Grandpa’s designs, building walls and rafters where there had been nothing. We slept in tents and campers until we got the roof done, and we used the neighbor’s outhouse until we got plumbing. When it got too hot, we dove off the little dock and had a swim, then got back to work.

What made this such a cool thing that my Grandpa did was not his ingenious use of child labor at the mere cost of a few cans of Mello Yello, but rather that we all grew up to believe that we had a stake in the place. It was ours. We built it.

There is no better way to build a sense of ownership in a place than to build it yourself. I feel it these days with my vegetable garden: I till the soil, plant the seeds, water, and weed, so that when it is time to harvest, I feel a genuine pride in it. It’s my space.

I remember the first place I ever felt belonged to me: it was my house that I grew up in.

We moved to town the Summer before I turned four and rented a place while ours was being built. I didn’t get to hammer any nails in the original building, but I remember being in it before the carpet and paint and fixtures were installed, when it was just bare wood and concrete. I remember riding on the back of our three-wheeler dragging a grate all around the property to remove the rocks from the dirt so we could plant grass. I remember planting the gardens, mowing the grass when it came up, and building a fort under the tree-house my Dad made for us. Inside, I remember owning every nook and cranny of that place when it was finished. That sense of HOME has never left me there, even after 41 years. Every visit rekindles it.

So it is with the family lake cabin, the second place that felt like home to me. Those nails and boards that I pounded made it so, and each Summer affirms it. Home is where the heart is, and mine is certainly there. Looking back at my journal entries there—both from this past week and from all of the other weeks I have spent there over the years—it is plain how much peace and contentment I feel there. How truly home I feel.

This is exactly why it was so unusual to have my normal flow of serene gratitude tinged with a sense of sadness and loss during last week’s visit.

As I was unpacking my bags from the car and loading up the refrigerator for the week, my Mom started talking about how her brother and his wife were interested in selling their share of the cabin (my Grandpa died a few years ago, moving ownership down a generation to my Mom and her brother). She mentioned how none of the “kids” in my generation—my siblings and cousins—were likely to ever be able or willing to own the cabin outright and that now might be the best time to sell it and buy a place of her own with my Dad.

As if my mind wasn’t reeling enough from this news, she even floated the idea that my Dad could even consider selling my childhood home and moving out of my hometown. Nothing definitive, but just the possibility of these developments suddenly loosed the ideas out into the world and sent them rampaging through my heart and mind. It was A LOT to process.

I have told you before that I am deeply nostalgic. While my mind normally is present-focused and also tends to be get quite excited about all of the wonderful things that are upcoming for me, there is also something I just love about memories. Looking at old photos, reading old journals, chatting with friends or siblings about the old days—these things are truly delightful to me. I have never been hung up in the past and or one to hold onto a lot of regret, but I dearly love to reminisce.

My past means a lot to me. That is why I love the old photos and journals. It is also why I so cherish my visits to the lake cabin and the home that I grew up in. So, while I was basking in the peaceful beauty and family fun of the lake last week, in my quiet moments, I couldn’t help but mull the prospect of it being the last time. Maybe I wouldn’t be back to the cabin next Summer. Maybe I wouldn’t be going back to my childhood home at Christmas. Or ever.

It is hard to imagine, actually. These places have always been with me, always been a part of me. They are central characters in my life story. It is hard to see how the story goes without them in it. It makes me sad to try.

What I realize, though, is that this is simply How Life Goes. It isn’t easy. It doesn’t always seem fair. It’s messier than you want it to be. It breaks your heart sometimes. That is all part of the deal. The longer I live, the more I understand that. I am still working on accepting it, but I am at least starting to understand it. It’s called “growing up”, I suppose.

And though the kid in me wants these safe havens to remain frozen in time and available to me for visits forever and ever—just like it wants my parents to be around and healthy forever and ever—the grown-up in me knows that it cannot be so. He even knows that it should not be so. The grown-up knows that it is time for my parents to get a cabin that suits them—not one that suited my Grandpa—if they want a cabin, and to sell my childhood home when they decide they don’t want to be there anymore, regardless of how many memories they (or I) have there. The grown-up knows how to do what is necessary, even when it isn’t easy.

I suppose what I am learning in this little attempt to be an adult is that the better your life has been and the fonder the memories, the tougher it is going to be to let it all go as the years require. The people, the places, the hobbies, the adventures, the passions. The best that I can hope is that whenever I am forced to say goodbye to one, there is a good alternative waiting for me.

It makes me cry a little bit now, though, thinking of all those difficult decisions and moments of surrender ahead of me. Growing up is hard! Necessary, I suppose, but hard. I think the way to go, though, is to live a rich, love-filled life so that every last one of these necessary goodbyes is a tough one, even when you are moving onto something that will in time become amazing.   That is how I plan to do my growing up.

How about you? What things have been most difficult for you to let go of as you have aged? Open up your journal and take a mental walk through your transitions away from things that have always been there for you. How do you handle letting go and moving on? Which things have you definitely said goodbye to so far, whether by force or by choice? Who are the people you have intentionally moved on from? How difficult was that? Who are the people who have been taken from you along the way? How accepting have you been with that? Do you still hold onto bitterness about the unfairness of any of those losses? Do you have passions or enjoyments that you have had to let go of? How about the places that always felt like home to you? Do you have some, like my cabin and childhood home, that you have counted on since you were a kid? Which homes have you had to let go of? Did you get to choose, or was it forced upon you by circumstance? How have you handled it? Did you ever go back to see it, even though it wasn’t “yours” anymore? If my parents ever sell their house—my childhood home—I don’t foresee a reason that I would ever return to my hometown, even though I would miss the house terribly. Would you? What is the one place in your life right now that you will most struggle with letting go of when the time comes? What is so special about it? What are your favorite memories from that place? Are you good at holding them in your heart? Is that enough? I hope you will tell me that it is, because I know I will struggle with the losses that are in my future. Leave me a reply and let me know: Which losses make growing up the hardest?

Maximize the Love,

William

P.S. If today’s letter resonated with you, please take the time to share it. I think more people need to be reminded to cherish their little corners of the world.

So Long, Farewell

DSC_0819“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” –A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh 

Hello friend,

Whenever I think of goodbyes, I think of my parents. My Mom is all-in when it comes time to part ways. I think so fondly of the mornings at her house—the home of my childhood–after a long holiday stay, when I am packing the car with a million pieces of luggage. She makes sure to get up early to make a big breakfast. She finds a way to engage in a good conversation one last time, gently reminding me that I still feel so very much at home there. She comes by with lots of motherly love and rubs on the back. She tells me how glad she is that we came. She hugs. She kisses. There are lots of “I love you’s,” and even more heartfelt tears. She puts it all out there. It feels good to have a goodbye morning with her. I always drive away full of love and gratitude—and yes, a few heartfelt tears of my own. My Mom is the world champion of goodbyes.

And then there is my Dad. The man who occupies the same house on those sweet, sentimental goodbye mornings is nowhere to be found. Perhaps the dog needed to go out for an extra-long walk, or that darn post office box was in desperate need of a checking, or maybe something was left at the office. In any case, he will not be sharing in the farewell breakfast, the “I love you’s,” or the teary-eyed hugs. My Dad is the world champion of avoiding sentimental moments, especially goodbyes.

As the child of this wonderful good-cop/bad-cop duo, you might suspect that I am some kooky hybrid of the two. I suppose that is true. When it comes to that kind of goodbye with those nearest and dearest to me, I love the lingering, sentimental goodbye like my mother. I am hopelessly nostalgic, so I like to soak in those last moments of a visit like they are a warm bath, thoroughly enjoying both the moment and the grateful afterglow of the wonderful time we have shared (which makes leaving so difficult). I love the peaceful gratitude that comes from spending time with the right people. When it comes to anyone else, though, I would rather take my old man’s route and avoid it altogether. Just get me out of there!

I have been full of goodbyes lately. A few days ago, I left a job and career of many years, in the process bidding farewell to many people who hold all sorts of different places in (and out of) my heart. In the week leading up to the final departure, as I saw folks for possibly the final time, I noticed my heart and mind run through the full extremes of responses, both in the goodbye itself and even in the mere anticipation of the goodbye.

On the one hand, I really appreciated the opportunity to say farewell to some of the players, mostly because I wanted to thank them for all of the their time and effort and commitment over the years. We had been through a lot together, and a player-coach relationship can go pretty deep. I definitely felt that in my inclination to touch base with my long-time players. The more I had invested in them—and vice versa—the more I wanted to connect with them one last time and thank them for the ride. It is a great gift to get the chance to coach someone who is invested in their own improvement, and I wanted to linger in that gratitude a bit in my final moments with those special people.

Otherwise, though, I mostly wanted to avoid people all week. If I wasn’t close with someone personally, didn’t care for them, or never made that great connection that comes when someone really lets you join in their fight for their own advancement and self-confidence, I absolutely did not want a farewell. I was actually even a bit repulsed by the idea. It was the complete opposite of my reaction with the other players.

I seem to fall on the “Give me the genuine and heartfelt, or let’s not waste our time” when it comes to goodbyes. But as I write that, I see that that is exactly how I am at my core and why I mostly keep to myself. If I am going to interact, I prefer it to be deep and meaningful. I don’t suffer the shallow stuff very well. So, I don’t avoid most goodbyes the way my old man does—to hide from the emotions that might come up—but rather because they won’t bring any emotions up. That is why I had no inclination to say goodbye to coworkers; I was not close to any of them. If no one knew I was leaving, I could have easily walked out the door just like any other day and never looked back. I suppose that sounds cold or simply weird, but that is a pretty normal feeling for me. I have had enough big transitions—moves or job changes—to know my patterns. I tend toward the deep and lasting OR a complete severing of ties (mostly the latter). I am not sure if that is a good or a bad trait, but it is certainly me.

Next week I will say goodbye to one of the best friends I have ever had. He is moving far away, and who ever knows what happens then? For the most part, I just want to have one of my Mom’s goodbye mornings with him and linger in the gratitude and fond memories. In some ways, though, I want to be my Dad and make his goodbye a little easier for him—it is already tough enough to move away from a life you have built, no doubt—by disappearing until he gets out of town and avoiding all the sentimental stuff. But this is a guy who tends to go dark, so what if this is the end? What if I don’t get the chance again to tell him that he’s the best and that I love him and that I thank him so, so much for all that he has been to me and my family?

This is when I know how much I am my mother’s son. The Truth in my soul demands a proper farewell, no matter how many tears must be shed or hugs must be hugged. It would be false to my Truth to go out to walk the dog for this one. I will stay. After all that we have been through, I must say my goodbye.

How about you? How do you do with goodbyes? Open up your journal and your heart, and share your Truth. Do you have a typical pattern for your big goodbyes? Are you the world champion of them, or are you the one who avoids them like the plague? Does your response change wildly, like mine, depending on the bond you have made? How have you handled your biggest goodbyes (e.g., moving away, leaving a job, even the death of a loved one)? I love the Dr. Seuss quote that goes “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Do you tend to be the one smiling or crying, or both? It can be a complicated matter, so dig deep on this one. Maybe allow the feelings to come out that you didn’t when you said (or avoided) some important goodbyes. It is a good release. In any case, tell your Truth. That is always the most important thing. Tell your Truth. Leave me a reply and let me know, How do you do goodbye? 

The real you is amazing,

William