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April 20, 2020

How does one Say Goodbye during a Pandemic?


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Relephant read:Elephant’s Continually updating Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon


A week ago, my marriage blew up.

Gasoline was poured at our feet, on the life that we had built together for years.

In the end, it seems the Universe struck a match, lit the end of a long string of dynamite, turned my head to see it, and asked if I wanted to put it out—or not. I watched it dance closer to combustion, consuming and mesmerizing, and considered my heart. 

And then, I let it blow.

As I’ve navigated the pieces, floating down to our feet, I’ve been stunned by the undercurrent of peace. Our world is no more, but the ground is still beneath us. And for the first time in eight years, with grateful awe, I feel something that I thought would never be mine to cup in my hands again: happiness. 

Deep, giddy, hopeful, shy, alien happiness. 

There is more, it turns out, to both our lives than this house we had constructed out of every scrap material we could lay hold of. It also turns out, I am stronger and braver than I had ever known. 

Because of this, I am finally ready to say goodbye. To let go of all the effort I expended in order to keep breathing these eight years, to keep us standing, and to prevent further loss in my life. To let go of the love-starved narrative I had to accept as an exchange for choosing this life, with this person.

Meanwhile, the happiness smolders in the remains of us, a promise of more to come. 

How does one say goodbye during a pandemic?

Our one and only option, other than continuing to live together in awkward sadness for months to come, was for me to leave town. In a twist of irony, and maybe providence, I’ll be returning to where it all began for us, in Seattle, as our story comes full circle to a close. And I’ll be leaving here sooner than I thought.

I digested this information quickly at first, without much emotion. Grateful, above all, to have this one weighty detail resolved. 

Until I thought of one of the dearest people in my life, who also happens to live here. I haven’t seen her since the end of February, right before the pandemic swept into Washington. Except for the one time she and her husband drove over to deliver something, and I stood on the balcony of our second floor unit and leaned over the rail talking to them below for a long time. I thought, then, of all the things we would finally be able to do again when this lockdown lifts. 

And I thought, today, of how that will not be the case after all. 

How will I ever pack up my little life here and leave town without seeing her face in person—I know I couldn’t bear a distanced goodbye—without wrapping her in a tight embrace? How this will be the end of the dreams we had planned of merging our two worlds together, one day, on a secluded piece of land—with horses and goats, dogs and chickens, a garden and a fire pit, and constant friendship close at hand. 

I didn’t realize how many layers there would be to this goodbye, to this grief. 

I’m not just saying goodbye to a partner, a life, a narrative, a town. I’m saying goodbye to all the pieces of my heart I scattered like seeds here, and planted like trees there, and watered with vigilant love everywhere. 

Goodbye to the many birds that call our balcony home, with its multiple feeders and bath, tree branches and awning. Goodbye to the trees who have supported me when I needed a body to lean against and fall apart. Goodbye to the vacant field I have greeted many a morning and evening, hoping it would always remain. Goodbye to the creek from where I have fished garbage, watched an otter family grow, untangled a gull from fishing line, cheered for the triumph of salmon, grieved for the pollution of its waters, and sat beside for hours. 


Some of these, I can touch with my hands and whisper, thank you. I will always love you. And others I must touch with my hand to the windowpane, or with my voice full of tears on the other end of the phone, or with my written words. 

I would never have chosen a deadly, worldwide pandemic as the backdrop against which to let my small world blow apart.

Nobody in their right mind would choose to upend their whole life during a time when everything is absurd, unstable, and scary in the world. When many businesses are closed, over 22 million Americans are recently unemployed, when taking public transportation and going to the grocery store are risky and anxiety-inducing, when the economy resembles the Titanic but without the romance, thousands upon thousands of people are dropping from a virus that is steps ahead of our understanding—and oh, by the way, we can’t touch our friends or loved ones. 

Seriously, who would choose this?

But, here we are. Here I am.

Yesterday, as I was biking home from the post office, breathing hard into my fleece muffler, this old-soul voice suggested, Maybe now is actually the perfect time to take apart your life. 

Now, when nothing is truly normal. When grief is already present, palpable. When we’re already in the practice of reaching out to each other, with words and screen faces replacing warm bodies. When the future is a dark blot on the horizon, waiting for the light to break. When no one knows what the world is going to look like six months from now, let alone next week, and really, do we think we’re ever going to return to “normal”—would we even want to? 

Maybe this is, in fact, a brilliant time to watch the flames ignite, to let my “normal” explode into a thousand pieces. It fits the zeitgeist of this pandemic world. 

So, if you, dear one, are also finding yourself staring down the end of burning string as it dances closer to the dynamite, I want to say, take heart. Now is not a convenient time to blow apart; there never is one. But you’re in good company.

Yes, everything is big and stakes are high and there is no end to the uncertainties in the world right now—but—no ending has yet been written for this story. For yours, either. Those pages of normality have been ripped out and thrown in the fire, and what’s left now is nothing but blank sheets. 

Pick up that pen and write what you want to see. Don’t write the ending, just start writing. Start somewhere. Start with what you would want if you had no limitations and fear wasn’t holding onto your ankles. 

Start by listening to your heart. And trust that, if you choose this time to say goodbye, the world will open up to you, in some way, and clear a path in time. If I can believe this for me, I can believe it for you. 

Our endings are also our beginnings. 


More Relephant Reads: 

How to Enjoy Life Amidst the Coronavirus Fear: Your Go-To Guide from Books to Podcasts & Wellness Practices.
What the Coronavirus is Teaching Me: 5 Lessons from Uncertain Times.
The Artist’s Stay-at-Home & Stay Sane Guide.
10 Simple Ways to Boost your Immunity without Leaving the House.




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