One week before leaving the heat turns up. You stop doing the things that aren’t necessary to do, and get busy with the things that are (and hopefully keep sleeping and eating). You start giving away food you know you won’t eat, at the same time as making twice as many trips to the store for the things you think you will need. Piles of paper are dropped in the trash as it suddenly becomes clear you will never do “that,” it just looked nice on Pinterest. You’ve made all the calls to those people who you must have one more time with.
Leaving well is about organizing your stuff so other people (who shouldn’t have to) don’t have to. It is about making sure all the dishes are done and the fridge is clean. Leaving well is about making sure you and those who love you have time for closure. About saying the things that need to be said, and letting go of the rest. Leaving well is being prepared to arrive well: stepping from one life into another doesn’t pause and reset. And when you are married and have kids, leaving well means doing all that times a million.
Three days out you’ll get your period or your computer crashes or someone gets sick and all your timelines and lists get thrown out. You toss it all in the air and hope it lands, folded, into the suitcase. You realize you just can’t go through another round of goodbyes because you will fall apart and so you nicely excuse yourself to soak in a tub and forget for a couple of hours. Forget that everything is changing, and just be still.
Until you arrive at those airport goodbyes, which are already mixed with the adventure butterflies, because in every change there is hope, even if just in the unknown. It isn’t until the bags are checked (and not overweight) that the first sigh of relief escapes, and you turn your energy on to hoping that the long flight has personal TVs. Because really, thinking about anything else is overwhelming.
Once the fun of seeing everything small and insignificant wears off (about an hour into the flight), you let yourself feel tired for the first time in two weeks, and you get lost in the world of in-betweens, because you don’t normally get to be lost (unless you have kids and then you just hope everyone on the flight won’t hate you and the kid will just sleep).
It isn’t until about two weeks in that you start to unpack your goodbyes. What they meant and what they will mean. It is long after you’ve put away your clothes and hidden your suitcase in some corner, closet, or underbed. After you’ve figured out your new system to feel clean and normal. If you don’t leave well, life will go on. You might have forgotten stuff, forgotten to hug so and so, forgotten to thank your mother enough, but the things that matter, we work hard enough to fix, or we make do.
But it is a good feeling to know you left well. It is a great skill to leave well, built up over years of diligent habits. Some leavings turn out better than others, and most of that is not in our control. But talk about it, read about it, iron it out in your heart: don’t let it sneak up on you just because it is hard. And always remember, it is a blessing to have a place to leave that is worth leaving well.