I’ve moved on. Really.
Really? Where did that expression, “I’ve moved on,” come from anyway? I seem to remember it from Seinfeld. Seinfeld was a comedy. That should tell you something right there.
Seriously though, where are we moving to when we move on? Our next best thing I suppose.
Well, I don’t mean for this to be a downer, and it isn’t, in my opinion, but I don’t believe we can move past things. Only through them.
What’s the difference, you might ask. Well, moving past signifies linear movement. The calendar is linear. If I broke up with so-and-so on such-and-such a date, and now it is three months or three years later, I might say I’ve moved past that breakup. Moving through it is a different proposition entirely.
To move through an experience (we’re talking pain here) usually means we have felt it, probably down to the depths of our being, and are possibly, possibly – out on the other side of it now.
May I suggest one surefire way to tell if you’ve moved past an experience – having passed it by calendar-wise, and are through it, so to speak? Try writing about it! Could be a journal entry. Or something more ambitious like a memoir.
I was interested in the process of transformation, or the complexities of changing ourselves, long before I hit the keyboard. My first expression of an inner being, an inner self that could grow and change in a way unrelated to the outer manifestation of my physical form that was maturing through life, was through drawing and painting. This was because I wasn’t able yet to deal with my experience in words or attempt to make language out of it. I was in my late twenties then, and I saw plenty of time ahead for writing. Meanwhile, making pictures was just plain easier.
Making pictures was also less explicit. A picture may say a thousand words, but with so many “words” to choose from, how can you be sure the viewer is getting the message you intended?
You can’t be sure. That’s the thing. Inevitably I grew frustrated. To my mind, or my way of seeing, I was spilling my guts, vomiting up my innermost fears along with my hopes and dreams – in the most artistic and beautiful way I knew how. And then someone would come by to look at my work and say, “What a lovely blue!” The viewing public cannot be counted on. Not long ago I was enthralled by canvas of Pierre Bonnard at the Met, and overheard a woman say to her friend how much she loved the maroon color of the vase containing a bouquet of flowers. She said she was looking for just that shade for a new couch. Ouch. Nothing about the lilting beauty of a masterful work of art that gave us more knowledge about the intricacies of life and one man’s ability to make us feel the flowers through the paint.
Saying I’m over it or I’ve moved on, is good for a sound bite. It’s good shorthand-speak when you just don’t want to get into it right now. But if we’re really interested in moving on, i.e., changing, transforming, altering our state of mind/emotions, the only way is through the heart. Straight through until we stop weeping. Or maybe not. Because tears, beautiful cleansing tears, can crop up when least expected and are not always about feeling sad or even happy. They might come when something needs to flow outward, or the eyes need a wash.
Anyway, this is about writing memoir. Writing down one’s life. I know no other way of seeing where I still hold shame. Where I still hold regret. Where I still hold anger and feelings of loss. It comes out in the way I try not to deal with it in the story. When I try and skip over things. When I feel the need to justify myself. Even when I just feel resistance to writing in the first place. Then I know. Then I see how I’ve been kidding myself. And that’s when I know I have to roll up my sleeves and plunge back in.
~~~ Nancy Wait is the author of The Nancy Who Drew, The Memoir That Solved A Mystery
She is also a writing coach and editor.