For Everyone Who Hates Goodbyes

Yesterday, I had a flash of inspiration and realized what my problem is.

Thank you to all of my “friends” snorting and saying, “Which one?” right now. I appreciate you. But, to answer your question, I realized what causes my vague dislike of technology and the pride I take in doing things “the old-fashioned way.”

I am a letter girl in a postcard world.

Maybe you can summarize novels in tweets and find out how someone is really doing via texting and construct a vague sketch of someone based on the detritus of likes and posts and favorites they leave in their wake as they sweep over Internet-land.

But…why would you want to?

Facebook

I know there are good answers. I know there are many benefits to being connected through social media, and I love and hate Facebook, Skype, and email for the same reason: for giving me the illusion that the distant is actually close.

Somehow, that carries over into the “real world.” Where, a hundred years ago, you might be surrounded by a small group of family, neighbors, and friends who you were pretty much stuck with, now you have the ability to expand your monkey-sphere way past the limit of 150 people. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the video in Thursday’s post.)

We create virtual communities of people we once knew, travel far away for our education, move three or four or a dozen times in our lives, trading social media information along the way so we can hang on to those temporary connections. Because we have more relationships, the nature of those relationships change. It’s not a bad thing. It’s only natural.

Last weekend, I visited my hometown, and saw brief glimpses of people I haven’t been around in a year or so. Hellos and how-are-yous and what-are-you-up-tos spun around me like a newsfeed updating at a hundred hugs a minute. And I tweeted brief answers and received short posts in return, because that’s all we could do.

I also took pictures with random statues. People made out of bronze are surprisingly hard to get to know.

Last weekend, I also took pictures with random statues. People made out of bronze are easy to pose with but surprisingly hard to connect with. I am sure there is a metaphor here.

Seeing everyone was wonderful, but also a little sad, because it made me realize: we are fragmented. We love too many people in too many places.

If I wrote a letter to each one—if I said a few honest things that meant something, if I tried to stay still long enough to make them feel known and understood and seen—I’d be stooped and gray and complaining about that newfangled technology they developed while I was here connecting with people the old-fashioned way. It just can’t be done.

I have this burning need to know everyone on a deep level, every acquaintance, every former friend lost to circumstances and busy lives, every far-off stranger who laughs like they mean it and takes time to talk to the kid no one notices and rushes over to hold open the door for the older lady struggling up the steps. These people…they could be my friends in more than just a Facebook sense. They should be my friends. Why aren’t they, why can’t they be? I wonder, even though I know the answer.

It’s not all bad, of course. The fact that wherever I go there seem to be new people who I want to meet and become friends with is actually a wonderful thing.

But, oh, we were never meant for goodbyes. We were never meant for bittersweet. We were never meant for relationships that fade like old photographs, for time and distance to chip away at our good intentions until there is nothing left but memories.

We live in a world that is not as it should be, and sometimes “picking up where we left off” has to be enough. But it still feels like picking up something that’s been broken.

But, no. That’s not exactly it. Because even a hug, even a word, even a quick greeting matters. People matter, even acquaintances, even strangers, even the people you realize you’ll never know half as well as you should like.

And there is even joy in bittersweet. Because the fact that I can’t love like I want to, not now, points to a day where I will be able to. Where I won’t run out of time or words or stamps. And every goodbye will be a see you later and every friendship will be forever and we will be home.

Until then, I will write love letters on postcards. I will tell stories with the character limit available to me. I will give hugs and ask “How are you?” and have the courage to make new friends and be happy that there are wonderful people out there, even if we aren’t in the same place and I can’t love them as I should.

Because someday I will. And, after all, “someday” is a very hopeful word.

5 comments

  1. There’s nothing quite like the feeling when you find and reread that yellowed, handwritten birthday letter from a grandma who has long since gone to be with her Lord. It’s warm and starts in the area of the heart, expanding to all other parts of the body until it finally appears as a tear of gratitude for having had such a wonderful grandma. But…those handwritten jewels only came once or twice a year. Paraguay is a long way from Indiana. Today, I treasure the moments when, thanks to technological inventions, I can see my daughter’s face. Sure, sometimes the connection is bad, delayed, blurry. But she’s there. Far away and yet close. She can tell us what she did yesterday, see her two new nephews, share her plans for tomorrow. It makes the distance a bit more bearable. As a granddaughter, I cherish the old-fashioned. As a mom, I am eternally grateful for the new-fangled. As a grandma, maybe I should get out some stationary and a pen….my grandkids might need a warm feeling someday.

    1. Penny, I love this so much! And I’ve also learned to appreciate technology for what it can do in connecting us (sure it *can* be impersonal, but it doesn’t have to be…it’s all in how we use it). Letting the ones you love know you love them is a beautiful thing, no matter what form that takes.

  2. My like button won’t work. CURSE YOU, EVIL BROKEN LIKE BUTTON.
    Because this sounds like me. There aren’t enough lines on the paper, or space in an email, or hours in the day. Maybe I’m feeling stressed and dealing with depression right now because of the fragmented life I’ve been thrust into…

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