hurrying and delaying

image credit: pixabay, cocoparisienne

For the perfect accomplishment of any art, you must get this feeling of the eternal present into your bones — for it is the secret of proper timing. No rush. No dawdle. Just the sense of flowing with the course of events in the same way that you dance to music, neither trying to outpace it nor lagging behind. Hurrying and delaying are alike ways of trying to resist the present.
~ Alan Watts
(Does It Matter?: Essays on Man’s Relation to Materiality)

When I came across this quote the other day it made me think of the art of saying good-bye. I want to give everyone a quick hug, say good-bye, hop in the car, rushing to get the painful separation over with. Like ripping off a bandage quickly, I tell my husband. But Tim tends to prolongs the misery. Announcing that it’s time to go, yet staying in his seat for another half hour. Slowly getting up. Dawdling! It takes forever to gather his things while new conversations are initiated and we linger inside the front door for extended periods of time.

I’m good at hurrying and he’s perfected delaying. Long ago we stopped judging each other and do our best to compromise. (Different doesn’t mean better or worse, good or bad, is one of our rules of thumb.) But this quote got me thinking, what would the proper timing of a good-bye feel like?

Maybe the way we used to say good-bye to my grandparents when I was a little girl. We said good-bye with hugs in the kitchen and then went out to the car. After we got in our seats, no car seats back then, my grandparents would stick their heads in our windows to see how we were set up for the journey home. And then my father would drive down the driveway while my grandparents stood arm in arm on the porch, blowing kisses and waving until we were out of sight. I can still see them standing there, after all these years.

How do you say good-bye?

32 thoughts on “hurrying and delaying”

  1. This blog SOOOO speaks to me today. What great thoughts. How I say goodbye depends oh close we are. -To my darling daughter, we “see” each other in silence for a minute or so – we set the intention to SEE the other’s self/radiance – it is a great experience. Particularly wonderful dpoing this on Skype.After that we have big smiles and if we are present as bodies, there is a big hug and good trip home and take care.

    1. What a beautiful way of saying good-bye you’ve cultivated with your daughter, Leelah! I remember my grandfather “seeing” me with love before we hugged in the kitchen. Two people saying good-bye to each other is so much simpler than trying to say good-bye to a disorganized group of friends, or a family with individuals of different ages and heights! πŸ˜‰

  2. My husband’s good byes are short and fast. The man cannot sit still long enough for a long goodbye. Hug, wave and goodbye. Me, I linger for a second hug, smiles, a few last words. I go out on the porch and wave goodbye and blow kisses like your grandparents did. The goodbye does depend on who I am saying goodbye to. I like the quote you included and I enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. You’re welcome, Peggy! I chuckled a little when you mentioned “a few last words.” To me, a few means about three, to my husband it probably means three hundred. (Or three thousand!) πŸ˜‰ It’s funny how we can perceive time so differently. I agree, the good-bye does depend on who is leaving. My children and grandchildren get both of us on the porch waving and blowing kisses, too.

      1. When my husband leave my daughter’s house he says goodbye and goes to the car. I join him 5 to 10 minutes later. He is a very patient. man. Ha

  3. Such an interesting post! Yesterday we were saying goodbye and my husband dawdled too. I was itching to go. But sometimes it’s the other way around. Mostly, though, I don’t like to linger…

    1. Thank you, Kathy! Perhaps you two have found a secret for proper timing. A fluctuating balance between rushing and dawdling, tailored to the time and place and people involved in the good-bye.

  4. Interesting thoughts that I had not considered. Now that you mention it, my wife and I are different. I’m the one who normally isn’t in rush – will continue the conversation. My wife is naturally impatient, so that speaks for itself. Meanwhile, it was interesting to revisit the opening quote after reading your narrative. Love the last line – Hurrying and delaying are alike ways of trying to resist the present.

    1. That last line was the one I came across online and then decided to find the rest of the passage, which added so much context to the observation. I never thought of how long it takes us to say good-bye as part of the practice of living in the present moment before, but that’s where my thinking led me. Like your wife, I tend to be impatient, too. Let’s get this over with, is my thinking, why prolong the inevitable? But I do try to slow down and not rush the process…

  5. I’m a big Alan Watts fan so I’m all about the quote. I think I try to take my cue from the people I’m saying goodbye to. I’ve known people who won’t let you leave even as you’re backing out the door. A particular aunt comes to mind. I never wanted to be like Aunt Irene! But looking back now, I’m thinking she was probably just lonely.

    1. I read an Alan Watts book once and loved it, and hope to read some more of his work some day. Do you have a favorite? Taking your cue from the people you’re saying good-bye to is a good strategy. I had to laugh, my husband is like your aunt! I’m not sure that he’s lonely, though, he just can’t bear for the good times to end. Transitions, you know, we handle them so differently!

  6. Dear Barbara, I cannot relay how much this essay moved me. But I will try. At the end I closed my eyes while a wave of goosebumps passed through me. The quote was magnificent, and a great lead-in; I liked the discussion on hurrying and delaying in your personal experience. And then the endearing description of your childhood memory and loving farewell…it was absolutely profound.

    1. Oh Jet, I’m so touched that my words moved you so deeply. πŸ’™ The quote was very meaningful to me and I was surprised where reading it directed my thoughts that day. I miss my grandparents so much during this pandemic and remembering their good-byes, not too rushed, not too prolonged, has been so comforting. I wonder if it came naturally to them. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  7. Great quote, I love your memory with your grandparents, Barbara. Oh boy, I’ve become a dawdler when leaving from the grandkids’ homes, while my patient husband is in the car with it running! πŸ˜‚πŸ€£ We compromise too, while he pushes and pulls me along. I want all the extra hugs and kisses I can get. 😊 When the grandboys leave my house, they roll down their window, and I stand on the porch, wave goodbye to them until they’re out of sight; they do that as well with me. Love it! With everyone else, I move along much faster. hehe

    1. It’s been a long time since we visited the grandchildren in their home but in the past we would leave in the wee hours of the morning when they were still asleep. (It was usually a 14 hour drive!) So the night before we would pack and load up the car and spend the whole evening saying our good-byes and having extra hugs and conversations. 😊 But when they leave here I go with the flow until they’re finally in the car and then stand on the porch like my grandparents did. I love knowing that you have the same tradition, Grammy! πŸ’™

      1. Us Grammys do it right! πŸ˜‰ I visited grandson #3 today, I don’t know how many times I heard “Grammy” but I know I loved every time. And we had another long goodbye, waving til out of sight while Pop Pop blew the horn. hehe What joy grandkids are!! πŸ’™

        1. So much joy! Even on video calls hearing “Grammy” so often makes my heart keep skipping beats. πŸ’™ Can’t wait to hear them in person up here for Christmas!

  8. This is the second blog post I’ve read today that deals with how one spouse dawdles, the other darts. I’m inclined to say good bye and leave. My sweet patootie can talk for another 15 minutes. Like you I accept this.

    1. What else can we do? After all, it seems that hurrying and delaying are opposite sides of the same coin, trying to resist the present moment happening. But I can only put up with standing around the front door for so long…

  9. Great question. I come from a big family of nine, including parents. Goodbyes took forever, even with a quick cheek peck for the elders. It is considered improper not to wave the car load as it drives away! We are now the elders and we joke about how long it takes to depart, and the in-laws have grown used to the process. πŸ™‚
    That said, I have learned to speed up my goodbyes as I have a friend, who like you, does only quick goodbyes! I think goodbyes are learned, don’t you think?

    1. Yup, I do think we learn how to say good-bye in our childhoods. My father had four sisters, so I had many cousins on that side of the family and we all got together five times a year. (The siblings took turns hosting the holidays.) But I honestly don’t remember how they all said good-bye because things were so raucous and I was so sensitive that I was completely shut down by the end of the long weekends. My mother (an in-law) had a hard time with it but I think she got used to it finally. I can see how your family’s good-byes would take forever! πŸ™‚

  10. Your paragraph on your grandparents and leaving reminds me of my own grandmother. In the late 70s, once I got my driver’s license and car, Mom and I would make the 240-mile trip from Michigan to Toronto to my grandmother’s house about five times a year. We’d leave for home around 9:00 after breakfast. My grandmother and aunt (who lived with her) would stand on the porch. We’d wave or toot the horn as we pulled away. Then, once we got home, we made the call to let them know we arrived safely – call, ring three times and hang up. “The Signal” and the good old days. No one left now, but the memories are sweet Barbara.

    1. Nice to know you have happy memories of your grandmother and aunt waving good-bye from their porch, Linda. I laughed at your mention of the ring three times and hang up signal! Tim’s grandmother used to have us do the same thing after we left her place. πŸ™‚ I can still hear her saying, “Don’t waste your money, none of us have stock in Ma Bell!” If we ever did have to call her for some reason she’d hang up as soon as possible, scolding us for enriching that corporation. She was my most faithful penpal in those days and we used to exchange letters a couple of times a month. No way she was going to waste money on a phone call when a stamp would carry the message for far less!

      1. Well I’m glad to give you a smile back Barbara. We did that for years and then my mom started calling my grandmother every Wednesday, right at 7:00 p.m. (when the rates went down). She didn’t speak for all that long – at the most 8 minutes. Funny as to “the ring” which was probably something many people did to give their loved ones comfort to know they arrived safely at their destination. My grandmother was a letter writer as well – I know the postage from Canada to the U.S. and vice versa, was nowhere as costly as it is now.

        1. Even nowadays it’s still amazingly inexpensive to mail a letter. Come to think of it, my grandparents also called at night when the rates went down. If I remember correctly it was even cheaper after 11 pm and when the phone rang at that hour my mother knew it was her parents calling. My, how things have changed!

          1. I don’t know if my grandmother stayed up that late, but we did do the after 7:00 p.m. calls. My grandmother was a regular letter writer with poor handwriting. I used to have nice penmanship until I worked at the diner and my boss said my penmanship was nice, but just scribble their orders or remember them. That ended nice penmanship forever. Many changes since that time!

          2. My mother and her parents were night owls. πŸ˜‰ My grandmother’s handwriting was difficult to read, but I kind of got used to it over the years. Tim’s grandmother used to type all her letters. How interesting about you having to write up your customer’s orders so quickly that your handwriting suffered.

  11. Good-byes are HARD, aren’t they? Especially when it’s someone we love very much who lives very far away. I’m one of the “hurry-up” good-by’ers. I just want to rip that bandage off and start the healing process; prolonging things only makes it worse. And really, it’s not like we don’t fully expect to see them again, is it??

    1. Yes, good-byes are so very difficult, Debbie. I agree with you 100%, prolonging the process only makes it worse. At least for people like you and me. But over the years I’ve tried to slow myself down just a bit and try not to rush things, letting myself stay in the painful present moment for a little while longer.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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