Saying goodbye

You can either run towards something or away from something.

A mentor said this to me years ago when reviewing my resume and it stuck with me. When transitioning from job to job, you are either running away from something (a bad job or boss) or you’re running towards something (a new opportunity, growth, or challenge). When interviewing, you should always show that you are running towards something. No one wants to hire you if it comes across that you are running away.

However, I took that idea to heart and subconsciously applied it to everything in my life. And overall, I don’t think that’s a bad way to live, do you? I’d rather be running towards something, than away from something else. But it wasn’t until recently that I realized how my “always running towards” perspective hurt my ability to transition well.

We had been home for three days post honeymoon and my brand new husband, Tyler,  was in the living room, sitting on the couch, facetiming with his parents, when he hears what sounds like sobbing coming from the bathroom.

“Oh no! What’s wrong?” he gasps when he sees me, uncontrollably crying as I washed my face.

I just sobbed. Tears and tears and more tears. The kind of gasping for breath where you’re not sure you can fill your lungs up enough, afraid of how long it will be until you can take another.

He pulled me in tight. Holding me as my body heaved up and down. “What’s wrong?” he asked again.

It’s. (sobs) Just. (sobs) All. (more sobs) The. (obviously more) Stuff.

I wailed. My husband looked bewildered.

Tyler and I got married just before my 30th birthday, which means that I had learned to live life really well as a single girl.

I was busy, had lots of gal pals, and loved my independent lifestyle– including become a homeowner of a cute little townhouse at the age of 25. While I had roommates for many years, being a homeowner allowed me to furnish and keep my house pretty much just the way I wanted it. Which is the perfect illustration of how my entire life had been up to that point–  pretty much just the way I wanted it.

When Tyler and I got back from our honeymoon, my our perfect little townhome was more like a perfect little disaster. Wedding presents and all of Tyler’s belongings were strewn about the house. Before marriage, I had kept everything very simple and tidy, but now we were living amongst lots of stuff that didn’t have a “home” in our home.

Something about that made me snap and I completely lost it– not in an angry sort of way, but in a deep grief and sadness kind of way.

After we survived the night (Tyler heroically cleaned our entire house within minutes, instructing me not to open the guest bedroom), we processed my “outburst” with a few trusted friends. I diagnosed the melt down as a “lack of control” episode. Control and perfectionism have been two major players in my life for as long as I can remember. And certainly, I had lost a level of control in my house and life by marrying someone and promising to be a team player instead of my independent self.  But there was something even deeper going on, and it wasn’t until recently that I was able to fully understand what had happened that night.

While we tend to think of sadness or grief as a negative emotion, the upside of sadness is that is shows us something had value.

When we feel sad, we are expressing that we’ve lost something that was of value to us. In my complete and consuming excitement to become Tyler’s bride, I had failed to recognize that I was saying “goodbye” to my single gal lifestyle. I was running towards marriage, instead of away from singledom– which is a great thing, obviously! We don’t want anyone getting married because they are running away from being single. However, because I was so fixated on what was ahead, I failed to recognize the value of my single life and say goodbye to that chapter.

Then, on day three of our “real life” marriage, it all hit me like a ton of breaks and I broke down. I was grieving the loss of my single gal days. Not that I wasn’t thrilled and happy to be married– I was!  But my single years meant something to me, they were important to me, and I had failed to acknowledged that. Thus, leaving me in a puddle of tears on the bathroom floor.

Perhaps if I had taken a moment to celebrate my single years, acknowledge the value they had, and said a proper goodbye to that chapter of life, it wouldn’t have all come crashing down on me when I least expected it.

I’ve been thinking about that moment a lot lately, as Tyler and I have experienced a few other endings and beginnings this year. It’s reminded me that while we should run towards what’s ahead, it’s also really important to not skip over the ending of what’s behind.

Leaving a job, a city, a relationship, –whatever the ending may be– is worth taking a moment of time to reflect, acknowledge the value it had, the things you learned, the relationships it brought, and the goodness it contained. While it’s much easier to simply run towards the new chapter, don’t cheapen your ending! My entire life, I have downplayed endings. “They’re not that sad or important! It’s not really goodbye. Let’s live life looking ahead!” was my M.O.  But if we don’t end well, we won’t transition well, and even our new beginning will be cheapened. (Or you might even find yourself sobbing in the bathroom sink, even though you are happy to be married!)

So, yes, let’s run toward what’s ahead. Just be sure to acknowledge what’s behind you and say a healthy goodbye to your ending first.