(In case you haven’t read my first take on the subject of “moving on,” here it is:
I haven’t thought about this phrase for a long time, but it revisited me this morning while I was pondering how relationships change over time.
“What is this about?” I wondered, unable to articulate what I was feeling. I grabbed my journal and started writing.
Straightaway, out came that bugaboo word “shame.” (That’s what I love about writing in my journal: out pops the very thing that I have been unable to name.) I was ashamed that things were not going better with one of my friends.
From there, of course, it’s an easy jump from shame to blame. Who did what? Who should have done what? etc. etc. Alas, there’s nothing to gain from continuing down that path, because the larger truth is that what happened is growth. Evolution. Relationships, like everything else, do not remain static. When they grow, they either get better or they start to fray at the edges.
Someone once said that relationships exist “for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” Sometimes what we need to do is accept that the reason or season has run its course and acknowledge that it is time to move on.
Finally, an appropriate use for this phrase! “Moving on” should be applied to growth, not death. This is a much more useful, helpful, way to think about it.
When growing, “moving on” means choices. As things evolve around us, we get to decide how to proceed and how to interact within emerging circumstances.
When dealing with loss of a loved one, there are no choices, no either/or, no nuanced compromises. Here, “moving on” implies abandonment and leaving behind. This is somehow insulting, as if the person lost were expendable; as if we should just look for the next bright light sparkling on the horizon.
With death, the only viable resolution is to figure out how to assimilate consequences and carry them forward in distilled form in order to create a new way of being in the world. Along the way we must learn how to focus forward yet also remember without undue clinging to that which is past.
“Moving on,” then, describes a leaving behind in order to make new choices while “carrying forward” offers the possibility of integration and assimilation in order to transform adverse circumstances into a new mode of operation. There is a time and a season for each of these things. We assimilate what cannot be changed; we move on from what we’ve outgrown.
Somehow, this feels like a helpful – and healthy! – distinction. It offers two clear alternative “reset buttons” to help us sort things out when our perceptions are muddled by changes in the status quo. No sense of shame is required!