Moving On

I have relocated living quarters 8 times in the past 6 years. The physical process of moving is no fun, especially if you’re severely depressed at the time. Still, I find the emotional process of moving on more difficult than physical relocation.

For me, the phrase “moving on” signals a process of letting go of things like guilt and anger, forgiving myself and others, allowing myself to be human and make mistakes, refusing to dwell on past regrets, and learning how to change in positive ways. It means examining the ways I become attached to less-than-ideal behaviors and feelings and learning how to put those things behind me. It is hard. I am the kind of person who becomes attached to everything–people, things, ideas, feelings… even sins. I want to hold on tightly to everything that is part of me.

I love the song “Moving On” from Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. My favorite passage from the song is,

I chose, and my world was shaken–so what?
The choice may have been mistaken
but choosing was not.
You have to move on.

What I love about these lines are their emphasis on choice. I am often paralyzed by choice. I agonize over the many decisions in my life; I often believe that if I just think about things long enough, the “right” choice or the “best” choice will make itself apparent. I am trying to learn to accept that I will make imperfect decisions because I am an imperfect person. I am learning how to say “that was the best choice I could have made under those circumstances, and in the future, I will know to make an even better choice.” I am trying to learn how to see choices as part of a fluid and shifting horizon of possibility, rather than as closed events that will inevitably tie me down to regrets.

I am learning how not to apply my standards of perfectionism to my past. Instead of regretting past decisions, I am trying focus on the endless possibilities of the future. I am slowly learning how to let go of the pains hidden deep in my heart that have stemmed from the hurtful and careless decisions of others. If I accept my own humanity, I need to learn how to do the same for others.

Whenever I go through a move, I always end up carting around more stuff than I should–I have a hard time letting go of things I secretly know I will never use again. When I am able to go through at least some of the boxes that are inevitably laying around and discard some of the papers and other junk that has built up, a heady sense of relief and freedom inevitably follows. I am able to let go of things that I am no longer responsible for, that I will no longer need to worry about or dwell on. When I am able to go through the same process emotionally, the same kind of feeling follows. “Moving on” allows me to not be as constrained by past emotions and regrets as I contemplate the opportunities awaiting me; it expands the possibilities of choice.

If only making choices were easier.


  1. S, I love this post. I’m one of those weird people who throws away too much–in fact, whenever life is too overwhelming and I just don’t know what to do next, I find myself defaulting into clean-organize-throw-out mode and thrashing through closets, looking for things to get rid of–but in every other respect I identify with what you’re saying. I’m perfectionistic, and I’m the queen of regret. Why, why, why, I wonder, did I do this, that, and the other dumb thing? Of course it’s a waste of time and emotional energy to be mad at others and at myself over the past, but it can be so hard to stop. Sometimes I feel as if I’m watching myself in an endless feedback loop. It takes a lot of work to learn to evade those mental traps. At least for me.

  2. Oh, and Kiskilili/Lilith/Jezebel, that is a fantasy I’ve had too–bordering on a hallucination, increasing in frequency and intensity, as the horror of moving day approaches. Bleach.

    Interesting thoughts about the next life. In weird random moments, I’ve pictured myself passing through the veil and being greeted by…everyone I ever said anything dumb to in this one! Of course, my images of the next life have been shaped by the old Man’s Search for Happiness, so all of these people I can’t bear to look in the eye will be beatific, white-clad, and carefully coiffed. They’ll pat my hand and call me dear and offer me a cup of spirit herbal tea. So maybe it will be OK after all.

  3. I’m on the verge of another move (=change-in-location) and wishing I could just wake up moved. Wishing, also, that I could wake up moved on, because I have similar difficulties letting go of regrets, large and small. I only hope the next life is better described as a chance to make amends and to seize missed (or absent) opportunities than an eternity to ruminate on How We Went Wrong.

    P.S. Can I call you Serafina? That’s your name in my mind.

    P.P.S. You can call me Lilith, or Jezebel. Or annoying. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. S,

    Serafina’s a pretty awesome name. I’d normally recommend that you hold out for something related to Akkadian demons, but Serafina’s a pretty convincing reason otherwise.


    How about if we mix mythologies and go with Kiskililith?


    Nice post. Recently, I’ve been pondering the process of moving on. It’s one of those painful-yet-often-liberating things that I’m not very good at, by nature. But it happens anyway. The moving finger writes, and all that.

    For me, at least, moving on is most easily accepted when I focus on new beginnings, rather than on endings. If I’ve got something good to throw myself into, I can get caught up and suddenly realize, hey, I’m having fun here.

    But that doesn’t always happen. I tend to hold on to everything-under-the-sun; I take change slowly; I drive myself crazy thinking about the past, wondering about roads not taken, kicking myself for things I should have done differently, playing “Sliding Doors” with my imagination.

    Ultimately, though, I tell myself: My past choices are what led to me today, and I’m pretty happy where I’m at now. I tell myself that a few times, until it sounds convincing. And that’s usually enough to jar me out of Sliding Doors mode, at least for a while.

    Eve and K,

    I used to think, as a teen, that the next life would be a giant movie theater and everyone would be sitting in the rows of seats, watching My Life, complete with thoughts. Which would be really awful and embarrassing and humiliating. I think the idea came from seminary.

    Lately, I’m less sure. I’m very unsure of what the next life holds; and I’m convinced that to the extent we can say it’s about anything, it will be about forging and deepening relationships and friendships and connections with other people. And that means the My Life movie is unlikely. At least, I hope so.

  5. Kaimi, I learned the same My Life version of the final judgment in seminary (and I heard Jon Bytheway advocate it at youth conference), and I’ve come to similar conclusions. For a long time it haunted me (especially that thoughts soundtrack–egads!) Then I decided that everyone else would be just as humiliated as I would, so at least I wouldn’t be alone. But I just can’t see that as the final judgment–we’re all so humiliated to be completely exposed to one another that no one can make eye contact? I like your idea so much better. And Kiskilili’s suggestion that maybe we can work out some relationships there that, for a variety of reasons, we can’t seem to untangle here.

  6. When it comes to the “movie-of-your-life” version of the final judgment, I’m comforted by that cartoon (is it by Cal Grondahl?) in which two people are talking and one says something like, the first thousand years of these movies were interesting, but it’s getting a bit slow. By the time they hit us who lived in the Last Days, everyone will be asleep. (That’s why they told you in Seminary that you were the “Chosen Generation.” You got chosen to have a favorable movie time slot. ;))

  7. Can our doctrine of repentance be understood in this way? For me, moving on also means moving up. I always feel that I need to be continually improving, eternally progressing.

    In the context of repentance, ther is a lot to be said for throwing stuff away. I used to think that deep and abiding sorrow for wrongdoing was proof of my desire to be different, even to the extent of feeling guilty for not feeling guilty! Now I’m starting to view life the J. Golden Kimball way. “They can’t throw me out of the church because I repent too damn fast.”

  8. S, I so much relate to this post. I too find it tremendously difficult to let go of the past. Like you, I’m trying to learn to cut myself some slack when it comes to past decisions, instead of putting them on instant replay in my brain. I’ve always been struck by how much more interested God seems to be in my future than in my past.

    (And I have to say, you really are the moving queen! How many times have you told me that this was the last one? Next time I hear that phrase from you, I’m sending you to Movers Anonymous. :P)

  9. I seriously doubt the past exists anywhere except in living memory and durable records. No doubt one could make quite the dramatic re-creation, but the past captured somewhere as if on film I seriously doubt. Even God doesn’t need to remember our sins once we have repented of them, so why should he?

  10. S, I think in my case compulsive organization is a desperate attempt to compensate for regret. Can’t change the past, can’t stop obsessing about the dumb thing I did or said, but can load up the car with stuff for Goodwill! I was a little freakish about neatness as a child. (And when I shared a room with Lynnette, there was the inevitable drawing of the line down the middle, and one day I used a snow shovel to shovel everything back on her side of the line.)

    To some it is given to make a lovely chicken cacciatore; to others, it is given to throw away the mismatched socks and the broken broomsticks. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. annoying Kiskililith, ๐Ÿ™‚ sure, you can call me Serafina. That was one of the two remaining names on my name list, and I was leaning towards it. I might spell it Seraphine, though, because I’m not a big fan of the letter “f” or names that end in “a”.

    Eve, I wish I had your ability to just go through things and throw everything out. I think the inability to throw things out is connected with my organizational issues. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Kaimi, I can definitely identify with a lot of what you said in your response. I agree that getting myself to focus on the present and how happy I am with most of it can help snap me out of my occasional regret-fests. And I like how you conceptualize the next life–i.e. deepening relationships.

    Lynnette, that whole “favorable movie time slot” thing is making me laugh. I’ll have to remember that for future reference. (And I’m glad that everyone else has heard and discarded the whole “My Life as a Movie” paradigm for the afterlife/judgment.) And my last move I decided to stop saying “this is my last move.” I’ve moved beyond the denial into the acceptance that I may move again next year (so I will no longer make the promise that it isn’t my last move). I accept that I am addicted to moving (is that one of the steps for people in Movers Anonymous?).

    Mark IV, I agree that I like to fit this into my paradigm of repentance. For me, repentance means changing who I am, and in my mind, “moving on” is an important part of that.

  12. You know, it does seem rather appropriate for you to decide to change your name in a thread titled “moving on.” Maybe we can also transmogrify Kiskilili into Kiskililith, which I think is quite catchy (though perhaps even harder to spell!)

  13. Eve, I don’t think I’ve ever made chicken cacciatore. ๐Ÿ™‚ But I can see the appeal of throwing things out as a way of trying to deal with regret. I only wish I had a similar impulse.

    Lynnette, heh, I hadn’t thought about that. But you’re right–it’s very apt.

  14. Comments about chicken cacciatore, coming on a thread called “Moving On,” have combined to put a certain Billy Joel song into my head. Now I’m doomed to spend the rest of the day with “he works at Mr. Cacciatore’s down on Sullivan Street” bouncing through my mind. . .

  15. Kiskililith–I love it! No one will ever get me confused with anyone else!

    I also heard those truly horror-inspiring claims that our lives would be played as movies in the next life, and they used to give me a pit in my stomach, as I was convinced I’d done things dumber than anyone else.

    I’ve also wondered whether the past exists in any literal way that can be accessed after we die, and although I’m sympathetic to the value of privacy that might come into play, I’d also like to think we get to find out a whole lot more information about the history of our planet than we ever can here. (I’ll be very disappointed if we can’t.) How we find that out I’m not sure. Is it possible to observe or in some way vicariously experience at least one person’s perspective of certain historical moments? Are interviews conducted? Is historical scholarship possible or even desirable in heaven (with all the limitations that accompany it)?

    In any case, I’ve long wanted to believe we’d be able to wander around a dry Mediterranean bed and look at all the shipwrecks.

  16. Interesting ideas, Kiskilili. I like the notion that we’ll learn more about the history of our planet, though what that means in terms of individuals and their privacy, I have no idea. I guess that’s one of the many, many questions that we’ll have answered when we pass beyond the veil. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Seraphine and Kiskilili,

    Exactly! On the one hand, it would be great to find out who shot JFK, and what happened at Mountain Meadows, and whether Melanie in the tenth grade really liked me at all and would have gone out with me had I gotten up the guts to ask. In fact, the one really appealing thing about the My Life movie is that it would church out neat-and-tidy answers (“There were two shooters; Lee acted alone; and you had no chance with Melanie”) for all of those questions. Angels above us are silent notes taking, and I want to see those notes.

    On the other hand, answering those kinds of questions raises privacy concerns for all of the parties involved. So perhaps, in the interest of everyone’s privacy, they’ll remain unanswered. Maybe there is no way to truly recreate the past, and even in the afterlife all we’ll have is our own imperfect and faded memories. That’s less satisfying in some ways, but more satisfying in others.

  18. err, that should read “the one really appealing thing about the My Life movie is that it would crunch out neat-and-tidy answers . . .”

    (I wonder what that slip has to say about my subconscious feelings, repressed motives, and my relationship with my mother . . . )

  19. Kaimi, I’m not sure about about your mother, but maybe your relationship with the church is more fraught with tension than you are sharing with the rest of us? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  20. Thanks for explaining, Kaimi. For a moment there I was afraid that I was the only dullard not to know this obscure usage of the verb “to church.”


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