05 June 2006

how do you say goodbye?

this has been the $64,000 question of the last couple of months...in the counseling profession, we talk about the process of "termination" and how much meaning lies in the way that we approach endings. i've always been quite avoidant when it comes to endings and saying goodbye. i will often make ill-fated promises to keep in touch or "see you later!" when it comes to everyday goodbyes, i often find myself "forgetting" (quotes there b/c to believers of the power of the unconscious, there's no such thing as really forgetting) things and having to go back and face an inevitably awkward double-goodbye (isn't there a bit from Curb Your Enthusiasm about that?). or i psychologically prepare myself for the end of a phase by getting all worked up about all the crappy things about that role/job/person/etc.

then there's the ultimate Termination (i.e., death)...I don't handle that well at all either. in fact, i tend not to handle it period. for those of you out there who are skeptical about psychology and death and all this stuff, hear me out...i've recently come to understand just how profoundly influential your view of death can be on the entire way that you approach life. this came to me as i was reflecting on my 94 year old grandma (we call her Inang, which means "mother" in filipino). my family absolutely refuses to talk about or even acknowledge her future death. i don't think anyone even knows what Inang would actually want with regard to all this. growing up with Inang's mortality blatantly in my face but ignored by everyone involved was really confusing to me and has made it even harder for me to deal with the reality of death. you might not buy it, but i think that this is a major influence on how i have such a difficult time with endings in general....and why i have such a problem just living in the here-and-now, not to mention my problems with debilitating procrastination too. it's almost like to live for today is to accept that there might not be a tomorrow. therefore, i spend almost every minute of my life disconnected with the present (and all the emotions that come with living in the here-and-now), forever trying to distract myself by procrastinating and focused on the nebulous "future" that might not even come! Actually, that's kind of how the overall American/Western orientation toward time is. Cultures who have a more fluid conception of life/death also seem to be more present oriented or at least see time as fluid too. Hmm, i hope i haven't lost you.

anyway, i started out writing this post to reflect on how i''ve been going through some major endings and terminations these last couple of months...i graduated from my masters program, i ended my job at Columbia, my research team dissolved, i terminated w/ my awesome therapist, i said goodbye to many friends, classmates, and co-workers i may never see again, tomorrow is the last day of my year-long internship at LaGuardia, and i'm leaving New York on Tuesday...and there are probably others that i'm missing too. however, this time i feel something different about these endings. i have been more willing to reach out to others and enjoy the time that i have left in these situations. that's also helped me feel more genuine in my offer to keep in touch with others. and i'm finding that people are responding quite positively! it's amazed me these last couple of weeks how kind people are and how powerful our networks can be. when i look back at how i've handled past endings in my life, i can't help but feel regret at the friendships that have fallen apart and the opportunities i have missed b/c of these issues. as i learn more about myself, i struggle to live life for today and all the wonderful people i have in my life at this moment.

(Cue "No Day But Today" from the musical Rent, fade to black)

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