Saturday, November 26, 2011

‘Goodbye’ Seems To Be An Equally Challenging Word

I’ve always struggled with saying ‘goodbye’. I pretend to be blasé about farewelling people, but I find something about it particularly confronting.

It’s been that way forever. When I was young I had an elaborate, superstition fuelled system of dealing with it – whenever I went to bed, after all the ‘goodnights’ the last thing my parents and I were each allowed to say was ‘see you in the morning’. I was very insistent on this, terrified in fact that if someone didn’t say it there was the clear and present danger that we may not see each other again. I’d get very upset when Mother and Father Painefull refused to play along. After a while Mum used to rebut my demands:

Young Painefull: You have to say ‘see you in the morning’.
Mother Painefull: But what if I don’t see you in the morning.
Young Painefull: I’ll see you in the morning mum.
Mother Painefull: Maybe you will.
Young Painefull: Muuuuuuum!
Mother Painefull: Well you might not. I might not see you. I might die in my sleep.

It was a chilling, but retrospectively hilarious response, probably intended to knock some of the OCD tendencies out of a fixation-prone 9 year old. As Mother Painefull now knows definitively, you can take the girl out of the paranoia, but you can’t take the paranoia out of the girl.

Since then I’ve attempted to become a grown up/manage my various goodbye-based tics so they are invisible to the naked eye. In fact it’d been years since anyone noticed how unconsciously systematic I’ve become with farewells when, several weeks ago, my colleague LJ pointed out that I always exited the office in exactly the same way. I start and finish work earlier than most of the others, and it’s become apparent that as I walk out I hit some invisible line in the ground at which I pivot and back away, so I still face everyone I’m leaving behind. As I do this I also apparently deliver a stream of last minute thoughts of the day, as if parting has turned me into some philosopher of the non sequitur. Having had this habit pointed out to me I am, of course, trying to breaking it. It’s proving a difficult nut (much like myself) to crack.

Since then I’ve started to re-notice how much time I spend lingering in doorways great and small as I attempt to walk out of them, and how shamefully difficult I make it for people to sign off on the phone. Whenever I sign off after an epic email exchange with Livinia (who currently resides with her Lover in Germany) it’s with the one word subject line ‘Goodnight!’… and then I’m ashamed to say I sit patiently for 5 minutes by my antique laptop to make sure she replies with her own variation on the term (usually with some showy German language touch) before switching off and actually heading to bed.

Clearly I still have issues with Goodbye.

My workplace went on hiatus yesterday. It’s strange to think I won’t be back in the office with those people for 5 weeks, stranger still to realise I’ll never see some of those people in that office again. I feel the old twinges again, the returned realization that things rarely make sense, are hardly ever entirely fair, and are almost completely out of my control (mixed in with a weird hint of survivor’s guilt).

Of course television is one of the cruelest mediums when it comes to sending people packing. It’s also the industry where you will always run back in to the people you know somewhere around the bend.

So, until then, au revoir, aufidersen, adios, sayonara, goodbye.

Painefull Out


  1. I hear you.
    I'm absolutely useless with goodbye.
    I'm awkward at best - and just slip out rudely to avoid the whole thing at worst.
    Airports make me anxious and traumatic goodbyes turn me into a tradgedy.
    On the last day of a family trip (to see my fam in Ireland or when members have visited here) I'm just a complete weirdo. The impending goodbye wrecks with my head.

  2. Oh my goodness, I absolutely INSISTED on "see you in the morning" when I was about the same age, only it was my Dad that would deliver the cheeky responses. I have similar goodbye issues, especially if I move. Does not matter how much I may have whinged about everything while I lived there, the sadness upon leaving is consuming. Au revoir!