September 3, 2009

Dealing with good-byes…

Posted in Between Us column, Relationships, Spirituality at 5:35 am by dinaheng

I hate saying good-bye.

The last family reunion of the summer ended today, as my sister Jackie and her two sons, Peter and Sam, left Houston for their new home in Oman. Their dad Jim works overseas for an oil company, and the four have moved to different postings around the world, coming back to the United States once a year or so.

Because the time between visits is so long, the joy in coming together is always equaled by the sadness of parting.dinah-eng-21

We can’t see the ties that bind us to others, but they’re there. We feel them tug on our hearts every time we move away — physically or psychologically — from the people we love. Those invisible threads are God’s reminder that we can never be separate.

We live in a world where families are separated by so many things — geography, cultural differences, political opinions, religious beliefs, you name it, and someone’s family is bound to be divided by it.

Yet I have to believe that there’s something in our core that won’t let the illusion of separateness truly divide us.

When I left home for college, I couldn’t get away from my family fast enough. I wanted to explore new places, in search of a new me. When the outer search finally turned inward, I  began to work through family issues with a therapist. After years of running from my fears, I started to understand that who I am and who I want to be are not different.

We spend so many years in search of… something. Only to discover that the journey is always about finding our way home.

In my mind, home is Los Angeles, where I live and work; Houston, where most of my family resides, and Sedona, where my spirit most feels at peace. Since no one place satisfies all that I am, I find myself still split between geographic places. At the same time, I feel more at home in each place than ever before.

What’s hard are the moments in transit, when I leave one place (or set of loved ones) for another. I know that whenever I visit friends or family, I’ll feel a hole in my heart for a day or two after saying good-bye.

So I throw myself into work projects to avoid thinking about the person I’ve left behind. If a  family member has visited me, I clean the house to erase all physical reminders of the visit, then try to lose myself in a book, all in an effort to distract my mind from the loss. The heart can stand only so much pain, so we defend ourselves by trying to ignore the sadness we feel whenever it’s time to say good-bye.

Yet part of the challenge of life is keeping an open heart, so that no matter where we may be, love can walk in unannounced.

One day, I know there’ll be a time when one place feels more like home than any other. Until then, it’s good to know that good-bye is just a word that has to be said before you can say hello again.

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