Voldemort Part II: the “Goodbye”s Begin

Feliz Viaje

I believe in proper greetings and proper goodbyes. They are a respect, an honor and a recognition of the people that you are with. They coincide with proper beginnings and endings of cycles, although beginnings and endings tend to mesh together rather than being black and white apart. I’m at the ending of a cycle, a period in my life of intense self-exploration and discovery here in Mexico; and I’ve had to start to say my goodbyes.

Although I still have about two months here, last Monday I said goodbye to my homeroom students. It was my last class with them, and I started off by thanking them for a wonderful year in which they have taught me just as much as I have taught them, if not more. I told them I would miss them terribly next year. Then I told them that I will miss them so because I won’t be back, that I am leaving. Of course, tears filled my eyes as I really let the feeling of leaving sink in for the first time.

I just had a conversation with my soul sister who has become my rock, my guru, my sage during the past month. She always says exactly what I need to hear and has supported my heart and soul as I work through perfectionism and negative thought patterns. We Skyped, and I burst into tears as I thought of when I will have to Skype with her because I can’t just take a cab over to her house.

Last night, my boyfriend and I talked about how much it is going to hurt when I leave. How he wants to figure out some way for it to hurt less for himself, for both of us.

I have these conversations about Voldemort, about my July 22 departure from this place  in which I have created a life for myself, a place where I call myself home more than I ever have before in my life. This is a place where I have come to know myself at my deepest, most authentic level. This is a place where I have come to know people who are real, honest, loving, compassionate… friends who have transformed my world. This is a place where I have had three transformative relationships, each of which taught me something different and helped me along my personal journey of self-discovery and growth. I don’t want to leave this place because of the people I have met here. Leaving them breaks my heart.

You see…

Those students have become my babies, my group, my community. They have taught me how to treat one another with compassion and love, and have helped keep me young and fresh. It was so hard to say goodbye.

And you see…

My friends are absolute loves. Loves of my life. They have supported and loved me beyond expectations and been my rocks through thick and thin (and boy, have I been through some thick). They want the best for me. They respect my space, my boundaries. They love my weirdness and rejoice in my victories. They are friends for life, and they mean the world to me. I don’t really talk about Voldemort with them because I’m afraid of my heart being completely smashed to pieces.

You see…

I have a boyfriend who is an absolute love, the third Mexican I’ve dated while here, and I feel like I’m finally getting it right this time. He has taught me to love and accept myself unconditionally. He has taught me how to receive love because he genuinely wants to give me love. I don’t want to leave that love, hell no. He wants to give me the world, and I want to take it open-heartedly. But how open-heartedly can I do that when I know I’m about to leave? My heart is already breaking at the thought of leaving him.

So, you see…

I am afraid that upon leaving, I will lose all of myself that I have uncovered, all of the precious diamond that I have been discovering and polishing away at for the past two years. Part of me, a big part of me, is afraid to leave this place. Afraid to leave the people I have come to know, myself included. Leaving is the hard thing to do. Leaving is the reason I stayed for one more year.

But leaving is also the right thing for me to do. Leaving the certain for the unknown is scary. It seems dark. It’s unnerving. It’s terrifying. It’s the kind of thing that gets under your skin and into your heart and can bring you down way low. But it also is the brave thing to do. It takes courage. It takes self-respect enough to honor one’s own decision. It takes strength of the ego and the heart; faith that they will be just fine when this end begins. I feel like I want nothing more than to play hooky and not go to school; simultaneously, I want nothing more than to stop time and stay at school forever. I know I need to leave, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to because I don’t want to say goodbye to these people in my life.

But I know I have to be true to myself. And my true self knows that staying here is not right for me right now, no matter how dearly these people mean to me. Because at the end of the day, it is me. I have my friends. I have my students. I have my boyfriend. But my job is not what I want to do. Not right now. And if I am not happy, how can I stay for the people around me? What if things change? What if they leave? What if things end? Then what am I left with? I have to remind myself that in September of last year, I knew that I didn’t want to be teaching anymore. It doesn’t light my fire, not teaching English. And while I can really see a life for myself here in Mexico someday, I’m not ready to settle down just yet, no matter how much my heart strings pull me to stay. I have to let myself go, I know I do. I have to let myself leave knowing that I will come back; I have to let myself leave doing my best to have faith that everything will be okay on the other side until I do return.

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“If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” Kahlil Gibran

Sticks and stones may break my bones

Words hurt.

You know that saying we all grew up with? The one about the sticks and stones? And words never hurting? Yeah well, that good-ole preschool saying is a big fat lie.

We pull out that “sticks and stones” line on the playground when we’re young so we can protect our little hearts from the negative comments that little Suzy says about our icky clothes and how we smell like dog poop and how we are tattle tales and are stupid for tattling to the teacher that it was Johnny and Jimmy who drew with crayons on the wall during recess. When we were younger, little (or not-so-little) bullets of negativity were shot our way and our immediate self-defense was to respond by saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” accompanied by that classic scrunched-up-nose-and-tongue-stuck-out face we mastered by the time we hit 1st grade. I thought that saying was my invincible shield, the armor and sword that could and would protect me from all negative comments and hurtful things said to me for, well, as far as I was concerned, ever.

Now as a twenty-something adult who has experienced adult versions of elementary school playground negativity, I have found that statement to be completely and entirely untrue. The fact is that words do hurt. While 80% of communication is through body language (and 68% of statistics are made up) and the minority of communication is through the spoken or written word, that 20% (maybe only 48% of statistics are made up) sure can pack a punch. The words we choose to use in our communication with others can lift us up, lift others up, bring ourselves down, or bring others down. Of course there is potential for combination there, and often times the bullies that haggled us in middle school and the people that haggle us in adulthood have the same thing in common; they use their words to put others down so that they can feel like they are lifted up and standing a little bit higher over everyone else. But be warned: while it appears that they feel they must put others down to get ahead, in reality it’s a way for them to cover up their own flaws, a way for them not to get hurt by having to look their imperfections in the eye.

From my own time in therapy and other such introspection, I’ve been learning that what someone says to others is really just a reflection of how they feel about themselves and where they are on their individual journey at any given moment on any given day. As much as it may seem like it, what other people say to us is not personal. Even if they are hurtful words, those words are not personal. Those words are merely a reflection of the other person’s own pain and hurt. I am guilty of using hurtful words, or abstaining from using words, against others — we all are. But those words I choose are words that actually reflect my internal mumbo jumbo and chaos and pain, not those of the imperfect person in front of me.

We all have sacred places of vulnerability, and we all have things we keep close to our hearts in that guarded place. What hurts is when we trust in another enough to share those deep emotions and memories and programs from that vulnerable space with someone else and they dishonor that trust. Again this is not personal, but these words hurt deeply because the person dishonors that trust and shares those words with other people because they have no notion of respect and honor. They dishonor that trust when they take those very words that you have told them about yourself and turn them against you, blaming you and judging you and finding you guilty for your flaws, as if you were the only person who had them and you weren’t already aware that you had your own shit pickles that you’re dealing with. That is the use of words that hurt. And those words leave bruises and scars, mother truckers.

Those people that use our words against us are guilty of betraying our trust and dishonoring our vulnerability, but we’re the ones who are guilty of putting the bullet of words into the hands of heartbreakers. Does this mean that it’s our fault when someone turns our own vulnerabilities against us? Absolutely not, that’s now what I’m trying to get at, at all. The people who do that to us are to blame. I mean, we’re all human, we all make mistakes and say things we wish we could take back. But there’s a difference between a proverbial slap on the face and the kicking of the proverbial dead horse. One is a wake-up call, the other is a brutal, disrespectful beating that no one deserves (not even my asshole ex-boyfriend who used words to make me mad so I wouldn’t be sad anymore). What I’m trying to get at is that perhaps next time before opening up our vulnerable places to others, we will just have to be a little bit more wise about who we believe is worthy of hearing our stories. Not everyone will honor and cherish the blessed, magnificent compositions of our lives. So it is up to us, then; we must be more cautious of only letting those people in who will honor and respect our beautiful, precious stories and selves, broken bones and all.

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“You can attain the kingdom of heaven from this one agreement: Be impeccable with your word.” Don Miguel Ruiz