Goodbyes come in many guises.
Some are grief-stricken, some are joyful. Some are laden with regret, some are triumphant. Some are transient, some are final.
This week, I am doing my round of goodbyes.
As I temporarily retreat from ‘normal life’ – knowing that the party will carry on without me – I feel like all the von Trapp kids rolled into one.
The resistant goodbye
I hate to go and leave this pretty sight / I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye
Some parties are so cool – so zeitgeisty – that they can never be replicated.
When I was 17, the weekend before a friend’s mum moved out of her flat, she gave him free rein to trash the place.
He called together a very tightknit group – the half dozen friends with whom I shared every weekend of my teenage years, until we dispersed to our respective universities.
That night, we drunkenly assembled ice cream sundaes on one another’s bellies and then ate them without using our hands.
We tossed leftovers across the room, painting the walls with whipped cream, treading cake crumbs into the carpet.
We used a vacuum hose to suck perfectly round love bites on each other’s necks.
Everyone was so filthy by the end of the night that we took group turns in the tub. The bathroom flooded and sweet greasy water dripped into the flat below.
I didn’t want that party to end. Just like I didn’t want my pre-aplastic anaemia life to end.
A dynamic career, long lazy weekend lunches, bustling markets, sweaty dances. I could have lived in that bubble forever.
The goodbye of dashed hopes
I’d like to stay and taste my first champagne
We had sky-high aspirations for 2020!
My kids were going to roll in the aisles at the Edinburgh Fringe, lurch like comical mini hunchbacks in front of Notre Dame, hunt fossils in the Atlas foothills.
It was a year of cancellations, disappointments and “maybe next times”.
For me, there is no saving grace. No cup of champagne to cap things off nicely. No festive indulgence or tipsy auld lang syne to ring out the old and sing in the new.
Just a clipped “No” and off to bed.
The honest and heartfelt goodbye
I’m glad to go, I cannot tell a lie
Backpacking taught me to gladly go when the time came.
On my first ever trip, across Latin America, I felt a pang of impermanence every time I left a place or a person. A desire to crystallise the moment, break off a fragment and steal it away with me.
After years of leaving – like the opposite of an archetypal Mexican goodbye, which can sometimes take longer than the event itself – I can now walk away from virtually anything without ceremony.
In any case, my 7 months of aplastic anaemia have been like a party where someone spills a bottle of red on your cream carpet… or you put too much bicarb in the cake, and it tastes like soap…
A grand flop.
I’m glad it’s almost over, and I bid farewell to it with ease.
The goodbye that accepts
The sun has gone to bed and so must I
It’s rare that we finish a chapter of a book and cling to it so tightly that we never turn the page. Generally, our eyes dart seamlessly to the top of the next one – and we move on.
As we wind towards the winter solstice, the sun is going to bed on this chapter of my life. The days won’t get shorter anymore, and the light won’t get dimmer.
Spinning like a top, my arms outstretched, can I create enough inertia to stop – for just one moment?
If I pause through the longest and darkest night – in childlike acceptance – will the tide slowly turn?
Will sunrise follow sundown?
Will there be more parties?
Back in August I penned an email invite to my 49th birthday bash. It will sit in my draft folder, collecting cyber dust, until 2027.
I won’t promise food fights or love bites.
But I can promise plenty of parties between now and then.
As for this week…
“So long” to my home, my friends and family – all of whom have starring roles on the pages to come.
“Goodbye” to aplastic anaemia. I am ready to lose you forever.