Moving on


There are many things in life that are easier said than done, and moving on is one of them. How many people over the generations have been told to move on, and felt obliged to do so, rather like an assignment set at school? Or a New Year’s resolution never to be kept but nonetheless made, even though a subliminal part of your psyche knows that you’ll never keep it. So why write New Year’s resolutions? Why try to move on? Why not ban the future from your thoughts? Be all cool and laid-back and just let it flow.

Actually, I don’t think that’s a good idea. The thing is, there are certain crucial times in your life when moving on becomes the only way. Unless, of course, you want to take pot luck and dive into the eternal, beyond-galaxies realm that you hope exists, whether or not all the allies of Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins wink knowingly at each other.

But this isn’t about science, or God, or belief or non-belief. It’s about moving on, and how bloody hard that is to do. Oh, it’s easy to want to do it, especially at this time of year when there’s excitement and hope bubbling in the air, together with imminent gallons of champagne. But once the New Year arrives, and January 1st metamorphoses into January 2nd, and then 3rd, and 4th, and then February, and March, and another Easter, another summer, another autumn and its brutal memory of what happened last autumn, and then … oh God, not another Christmas to get through … and then what? Has your inner promise to move on actually been fulfilled?

I suppose it depends on what type of moving on it is. After all, grief exists in varying degrees, just like everything else in life. Moving on after the loss of a loved one is pretty high up there in the pecking order, with the death of a child surely being right at the top. I just can’t imagine the pain a parent feels after a beloved child has been snatched from them. Thankfully, most of us never have to go through that particularly cutting loss, which must be the cruellest of all.

When a parent dies, on the other hand – especially your last surviving one – you know it’s part of the grand scheme of things; that you’ve reached the inevitable threshold you always knew you’d have to cross one day. You grieve, suffer, remember the best, obliterate the worst, and try to hang around in that empty space where the missing parent once dwelt. Yet you also accept that you can’t. You just have to face the rest of your life without them, now as a proper grown-up, regardless of your age, and get on with things.

When my mother died, I thought I’d never be able to move on in view of the tortuous complexity of our relationship: one that was loving yet agonised, giving yet narcissistic, problem-building rather than problem-solving and, ultimately, never resolved. So I grieved, and remembered, and read old diaries, and wrote a novel about it. For Some We Loved – the dual love story about a man we both loved and lost, thirty years apart.

But moving on after the break-up of a marriage …? That’s a different kettle of fish altogether. You still grieve, suffer, remember the best, long to hang around in that empty space where the missing spouse once dwelt; yet you also know that it is not a sanctified space. It isn’t a space that death has preserved for the warmest parts of your heart to dwell in. It’s a big, gaping, unnatural space that was carved by your own human failure. And your partner’s. Failure in love, failure in fidelity, failure to hold on to those unrealistic vows you made all those years ago, when your love was pure and full of hope, when you wished you could have remained exactly where you were right then, and held on to that specious happiness for ever and ever. And now, the space where all that hope and faith dwelt is empty, and once again you’re told that you have to move on. But how much harder this time round, when the person you’re having to move on from is still very much alive.

I hardly dare mention Philosopher-Hubby again to any fellow-bloggers who have already made his acquaintance. But yes, of course it’s him, Errant Hubby, who has crept back into the pages of my blog and my mind. It’s him that I have to move on from in the imminent New Year. And he also has to move on from me. Because the thing is, despite all that smutty betrayal and the spice of deceit and so on and so forth, there is still a smarting residue of love, on both sides. And a deep awareness of that big gaping space in our homes and our lives – two homes now, rather than one. The empty armchair where he once sat; the non-existent piano where he now dwells. Too much pain when we were together; too much space now we are apart. But we have to move on, because moving back is never advised.

So, to 2018 and all those who feel the need to trudge forward, even if they don’t want to, or don’t believe they can, I say to us all – let’s join hands and welcome this invisible space that we’re now emigrating to. Let’s step into the lion’s den of our future with all the courage of Daniel, and finally, once and for all, move on!

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