I’m the Queen of Goodbye. That is, I am the Queen of Goodbye once I actually get to the moment of goodbye. In the months preceding a separation, I’m the character most likely to tug on my husband’s shirt, look up at him like a Ty Beanie Boo and whisper: Don’t leave me. Please don’t go.
The first year we were married, this was kinda cute. My little husband would try to argue me out of this feeling. He would patiently explain to me how he had to go. How he didn’t want to leave. How he would be AWOL if I did not let go of his shirt this minute.
I did not note the little edge in his voice every time he had to say this. I wanted us to be one of those couples who clung to each other on the pier until the absolute last possible second before deployment. I wanted the Command Master Chief to pry us apart. I thought the best goodbye was the one that lasted longest.
Wrong answer. The more we said goodbye, the more I figured out that the clinging goodbye was the weakest possible position. Because in military life, goodbyes aren’t about the quality of your love. Goodbyes are about power. Goodbyes are your opportunity to take power over the deployment.
Instead of framing the goodbye as Please don’t leave me. Please don’t go. The best goodbye puts you in the driver’s seat. The best goodbye is framed as I am sending you. I am delivering you. I am letting you go.
It is a subtle difference. But don’t you think that the difference between a good military life and a painful military life is often the way you frame this stuff in your head?
When I take the power over the goodbye, I find that I am capable of driving my husband to the ship or the airport. I can help him unload his stuff. I can shepherd my kids through their goodbyes then kiss my love so he will remember it for months to come. Then I can drive away without getting into a ten car pile-up.
I get big-eyed again later, of course. But the Queen of Goodbye chooses the option that renders the most power every time.
Do you say goodbye quickly or is the slow goodbye better for you and yours?