Moving on (1)

Moving on (1)

This article resulted from suggestions made to a grandchild to help get through an unsettling situation. I then started thinking about how that same advice could be useful to myself and others, and my first thoughts about a name for the article was 'Becoming a better me, or Self-improvement', but 'Moving on' seems more apt. The current restrictions on our movements and contacts are a blight on our lives, but they won't last forever. Even so, there may be times when we ask ourselves 'Is this all there is?' Perhaps we simply have nothing to look forward to, or, in the case of a breakdown in a close relationship, we might ask ‘Where did it go wrong? By asking ourselves three questions, we may find a way to move forward: What is important to me? Who is important to me? How does what I say or do affect those that are important to me? The first two questions could also include ’and why’ These three questions are intended to offer a route to finding a different way of looking at our predicament and hopefully to help us to formulate a plan for moving forward, to get out of a rut.

As I began to think about it more generally, it occurred to me that a better order for the questions would be the ‘who’ question followed by the ‘why’, and then the ‘what’

Asking: ‘Who is important to me?’ is an open-ended question. It could include: the teacher whose knowledge and enthusiasm for a subject created a similar interest within ourselves, that may have determined our career, or was the trigger for the start of a long-lasting hobby. A close relative that we knew we could turn to for advice or guidance whenever we didn’t know what to do. Someone at work who was a mentor and who actively encouraged and assisted our development and progression. Or, it could be a friend who simply knows what it means to be there, and when they are needed.

In an ideal world, family would be high on the list of who is important to me, sadly we live in an imperfect world, and sometimes our most treasured relationships break down. and I feel that a breakdown between brothers and sisters, or parents and offspring is especially heart-breaking, and it is worth considering how these rifts arise, and how they might be repaired. This problem ties in very well with the question: ‘How does what I say or do affect those that are important to me?’

Occasionally we are faced with an unexpected question or situation, perhaps the unexpected question is posed while we are deep in thought or preoccupied. In these situations, our response may be a reaction to the question rather than a considered reply, and this response may be because the question was not anticipated, or because we are reacting to what we thought we heard rather than what the speaker intended. In either case this is when we need to pause, consider how our response may be received, and think about the need for clarification. As anyone close to me would confirm, I can be argumentative, stubborn and opinionated, and although I am not finding it easy, I have started to consider how what I say affects those close to me, and this hasn’t gone unnoticed.

By asking the question ‘How does what I say affect those that are close to me?’, we can reduce the risk of a rift developing, but how might it be possible to heal a rift? As a starting point, some introspection is likely to be useful. Time spent thinking about what the real problem is, rather than just accepting that you aren’t communicating, and that things are unlikely to change. Thinking about the distress that this breakdown may be causing to both parties (and possibly, others who are also close to us)  Consider responsibilities rather than blame, and how you might have been able to say or do things differently Spending a little time wondering about some of these questions could help to think about the next step, Thinking about what you would like to say if you could communicate is probably a reasonable starting point. Writing down your ideas and sorting out the order may be helpful. You could also consider if there is anyone else who may be able to help, either by broaching the subject on your behalf, or as a mediator. This could be another family member, a mutual acquaintance, or even a relationship ‘expert’. Knowing what you want to achieve by offering an olive branch may help to clarify how to proceed, and just as importantly, considering what obstacles may arise and what you might do if your advances are rejected. Major problems with anticipated obstacles are often best approached by taking small steps, having realistic expectations, and thinking quite deeply about the possible consequences. There is no ‘right answer’, we are all individuals, and what seems right to us may look completely different to others. 

There are so many ways of communication available to us and the decision on how to establish a first contact could be one of the most difficult steps. What might be the most reliable way to ensure that you can say exactly what you want to, in the right order, and more importantly, in the right tone? That is a decision for you. Personally, I am a believer in good old-fashioned letters, but it is a practice that is long out of fashion and may be something that has not been attempted since school days.

This is a far from a detailed solution to anything, but hopefully the ideas suggested can be used to begin to take a few small steps in the right direction. Regarding the examples given at the beginning of the article: the teacher, the helpful relative and the friend, is it possible that just thinking about what they have done for us might somehow give us a boost, and if so, why not think about contacting them again to let them know how much they have meant to you, and to thank them? Wouldn’t this be beneficial to all concerned?

The third question: ‘What is important to me?’ looks at activities, abilities, interests and expectations, and will be considered in a separate post (Moving On 2).