Going Back To How Things Were.

I am right now in an unenviable position of being a mentor and guide to a young lady who is going through a very rough time with her marriage in particular and life in general. It is all the more unenviable when you consider that I did not go looking for this experience but, was more or less shanghaied into it by circumstances.

The only reason that I can think of for having been chosen for this situation is my age and so called wisdom.

Be that as it may, I am stuck with it and I do my best to be of help. Time and again, I have expressed my helplessness in advising specific courses of action because I have never met the husband. The lady simply says that she just wants to use me as a sounding board to think aloud. What she does not realise is that it is sapping my energy levels by rants that meander all over the place but covering the same ground over and over again and again.

Last night before we ended our session, other than one face to face, all over the telephone, she wistfully said “How I wish that we could go back to how things were!” She did not wait for my response and disconnected.

My initial response was to convey to her my best wishes that they do by a text message but before I did that, it occurred to me that it would be wrong for me to send that message as I strongly believe that how things were before was what has brought the situation to what it is now! And I said to myself, phew, what an insight!

We often wish that going back to how things were would somehow make us happier. Will it? With my insight, I went over some of the situations that I wish were like the old days and came to the conclusion that had they not taken place, I wouldn’t be where I am now! And that is by and large, a very happy place but, those moments of nostalgia when one wishes that one could go back to where one was before are always when one is not in a happy frame of mind. And, one has come to that stage because of what happened in the past!

Just think about it, analyse your own experiences and see if it really would make things better than what they are right now? How can they, when exactly what happened then is what has made you come to this stage of unhappiness!

This entry was posted in Language, Nostalgia, People, Relationships and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Going Back To How Things Were.

  1. The now…the importance of this keeps reiterating all the time….if we could only focus on our situation now……
    I was just narrating a story to the grandkids at the dinner table….
    An old man was fed up of his family and his life…he decided to leave it all behind and go away to the Himalayas.
    As he began climbing, he notices a little girl…maybe 9 or 10 puffing and panting as she trudged up the slopes with her baby brother riding piggy back.
    “Is the boy not a burden to you” he asked. “Why don’t you make him walk?”
    She replied, “No….I love him, he is my baby brother. How can he be a burden to me?”
    Then the old man realised that no problem or person can be a burden if you look at it/them with affection and love. When we come across an issue or problem and do not have the patience to cope with it, it becomes onerous, a burden. If we can set our shoulders to it and think how to solve it….in the now….then it becomes an interesting puzzle to solve.
    When we resent a relationship and find it not going anywhere, the hate and dislike builds up…maybe at that time it is better to cut the ropes and have a free fall!!!
    My two bit of wisdom!!!

    • Great story Padmini. I would dearly love to pass the buck and ask the lady to call you up for solace. I shall however refrain as I love you and I have carried you on my back while huffing and puffing.

  2. Ursula says:

    I think the keyword being “sounding board”.

    Some years ago I went through tremendous grief and to this day I thank my sounding boards. Not least the Angel and his patience. He saw me struggling with immense pain day in night out. Living under the same roof there was no way of me hiding it from him. Anyway he reads me better than anyone. And my doctor who, such was his intuition, asked me apropos of nothing whether anything was bothering me. I spoke for an hour (I was his last patient of the day and he made the time) . He listened, interjecting the odd question, and promptly “prescribed” me bereavement counselling (and no, as you know, no one had physically died – which made, odd as it may sound, the pain searing).

    A lot of people pride themselves on being “good” listeners. Unfortunately, just because someone “listens”, doesn’t interrupt and has nothing much to say, doesn’t make them a “good” listener. Makes them boring listeners.The good listener is one who is an ACTIVE listener. Someone who is able to convey the feeling of actually being interested in the other person, regardless of whether they can “help” or not (even if bored with it all because they have heard the lament a million times before). It’s a quality not easily described with words. It’s a vibe a good listener gives off.

    By way of scant comfort, Ramana, feel happy that people trust you and come to you with their woes. It goes without saying that, yes, it can be a burden. And I burdened people at the time. On the other hand, I don’t envy those people in my life I wouldn’t turn to if fate had me by the balls. It’s pretty damning, don’t you think?

    I rarely blow my own trumpet but have been told, many a time, by friend and stranger alike, indeed the Angel from whom I take it as the highest accolade he can give his mother, that I listen very well, ie actively. You see, I may appear a fountain, nay a waterfall, of never ending words and ideas but I do know when to shut up and listen attentively. As I am sure so do you. Sometimes, like in your case scenario, we have to muster the strength to keep ourselves on the back burner.

    However, for both your and the young lady in question’s sake, I hope that her “breakthrough”, seeing the light and a way forward, will come sooner rather than later. And, lastly, not that you won’t have thought of it yourself, may I remember you of my father’s so very astute question and ask the young lady: “What is it you want to achieve?”. That should stop her in her tracks and make her think.

    Greetings too to your wise sister,
    U
    Ursula recently posted..Crash landing

    • If and when the break through comes, I shall write another post on the matter. In the meanwhile, you can read my response to my wise sister and have a chuckle or two.

  3. we often think back to a situation/way and think “yep, if I had done this or that…life would be vastly different”- but actually I doubt we can easily change – either looking back, or even thinking forward – life happens. Sometimes great, sometimes not but many times interesting how our personal pathways move along…

    you sister is a wise woman – but breaking the “cords that bind” any situation is sometimes easily said than done…

    Recently I had realised that a cord that had broken, and I had been free nigh on 9mths suddenly reappeared in life – this time, with less hassles – and it was interesting because I wasn’t intimidated about it all. I felt like yes, there will be a limited contact, then as that “cord” is moving home…it will again disappear…

    • My wise sister and I can share stories of broken bonds till the cows come home. The wisdom on relationships for both of us comes out of personal experiences shared over a life time. My two other siblings, both men would have been more blunt.

  4. “Stay curious and open to life. No matter what happens keep learning and growing.” I figure if I have to go through painful experiences I might as well get something out of it. What has your mentee learned? How could she grow from her experience? What does she want, deeply and completely? What small step could she take to move in that direction? Being there when a person lets off steam helps at times, especially in the beginning of a crisis, but when it goes on and on it can keep a person stuck.
    Cheerful Monk recently posted..The Fastest Car in the Universe

    • My mentee was trained to be a housewife and a mother and is not trained or qualified to be anything else. It is difficult to find a way to stand on her own two legs supporting two college going young lads. What she wants is what all of us want. A stable relationship with her spouse, some consistency in her life and freedom from worry about what the morrow will bring. A totally irresponsible husband is a difficult proposition for such wives with no qualification or training in any thing other than family matters.

    • Yes, she has a serious problem to deal with, and at the moment she is stuck:

      The lady simply says that she just wants to use me as a sounding board to think aloud. What she does not realise is that it is sapping my energy levels by rants that meander all over the place but covering the same ground over and over again and again.

      You can’t solve the external problem, but you can help her to access her inner strength. I urge you to learn about Focusing. As I’ve said before, Cornell’s The Power of Focusing does an excellent job of discussing it.

      Here is the first chapter: http://media.focusingresources.com/downloads/pof1.pdf
      Cheerful Monk recently posted..The Fastest Car in the Universe

  5. And when the person goes on and on and the listener is supposed to be just a sounding board and not say anything, the listener is being used. Been there, done that, and I learned my lesson from it. 🙂
    Cheerful Monk recently posted..The Fastest Car in the Universe

    • I don’t mind being used in this particular instance. I just wish that I can wave a magic wand and make all her troubles vanish.

    • I left a comment above but it had too many links and has to be moderated. You can’t make her problems disappear, but you can do something better — help her access her inner strength. Try reading Cornell’s The Power of Focusing. The above comment even gives a link to a pdf of the first chapter.
      Cheerful Monk recently posted..The Fastest Car in the Universe

  6. Anna says:

    Thank you, Ramana for the words of wisdom. Your message came very strong home. I also think that when we want to go back is that we want to go back with our current experience and correct what went wrong.
    You are helping the girl a lot, I believe. She needs to re-iterate the situation to find an equilibrium and hopefully a solution. I also know very well how draining it is for you.

  7. tammy j says:

    Father Flanagan of Boys’ Town must have read the old story of Padmini’s too.
    although he only used the last part as his insignia. a young boy with a little boy riding on his back.. and the insignia says “He ain’t heavy Father. He’s my brother.” it always brings tears to my eyes when I see it even now.
    this post and each great comment are so good. and are all part of the picture of getting through a painful period in one’s life. so many of us have been there.
    the greatest help ever given to me by a friend were these words when I was trying to live with ‘the abuser’ that year and a half after my own Bob died.
    “Tammy … L is not going to change or he would have by now.
    and so you have two choices. either to realize that and live with it.
    or to realize that and get out.” it sounds a little harsh as I type it. but it was what I needed. at least psychiatrists are paid for hours of listening!
    actually it was almost like being whacked when in a zen meditation. it woke me from the stupor of unending misery and saturation of self angst.
    it was like a beautiful knife cutting through pain and pointing to survival.
    I got out. and it saved my life. I was already down to 87 pounds and it’s like a window opened and light streamed in. I learned from it and moved on.
    tammy j recently posted..you’re not surprised

    • I suspect that you would not have read all my responses that I made here while you were typing your comments. Please read my response to Monk. This girl has to learn completely from scratch to fend for herself without any financial support from her husband for at least some time. Her choices are limited now due to completely unavoidable circumstances. Neither her family nor her husband’s can support her financially. It is a bigger mess than I can write here.

      • tammy j says:

        so true. you hadn’t had a chance to respond to all yet!
        the bigger picture always changes our approach or attitude.
        although as a widow who hadn’t worked in most all of my married years I also know that panicked feeling of sink or swim. surviving is first. I was only 35 when I was making that decision. I thought yours about the same age! it only gets harder the older she is.
        I have a friend in Greece who is 58 and in your friend’s same position. a daughter grown and a husband who is totally unresponsive and cruel in his ‘shunning’ of her.
        a woman finding a job supportive enough to live on at their age is kidding herself these days. it’s heartbreaking to watch or hear about. like you said earlier. how I wish I could wave a magic wand for her. and for your young friend!
        tammy j recently posted..you’re not surprised

        • Having had enough time to mull over the post, comments and my responses so far, I now realise that my post has drawn attention away from the thrust of my argument that going back to how things were is illogical. It has now been overshadowed by experiences and suggestions for the sufferer.

  8. RR and I had a relative…who at 50+ had to go out and earn the living for her family. Her husband, who had lost all his money in business, moved into his sister’s garage converted into a studio apartment. The children were sent into hostels and Aunt went to be an in house secretary/companion to an industrialists widow in another state and city.
    She spent nearly two years away from her family and her son’s never forgot her sacrifices.
    Women today, just as they did for generations, can do a great deal when the need arises, within boundaries, with meagre means and resources.
    The choice…to stay or leave…is theirs. To bring up kids in a volatile unhappy atmosphere has much more far reaching consequences.
    Maybe I am being idealistic…maybe looking at the world with coloured glasses.
    You have to look within for strength, courage and sustenance.

    • Amen to that! And as I wrote in some comments above, I think the listener can help the person look within and find inner strength. Her being older makes it harder for her to find a job, but the boys are college age, not young and helpless. Why does she feel it is completely her responsibility to support them? It seems to me they should at least be part of the discussion. They all have a lot to mourn.
      Cheerful Monk recently posted..The Fastest Car in the Universe

    • Mark my words, this one will come out trumps.

  9. You are correct in concluding that ‘the way things were’ is what caused all of this difficulty in the first place! I know it is exhausting, but you are performing a very valuable service to this person, just by listening. Eventually, by hearing her own voice go on and on and on, she will get her answer—nothing you say will be more powerful than that!
    Still the Lucky Few recently posted..New Study—Millennials Speak their Minds!

  10. I often think about how the most difficult situations in my life have been the biggest lessons. I can’t regret any of it.
    Secret Agent Woman recently posted..I meant to post about the project I was working on during my blog hiatus.

  11. Wisewebwoman says:

    I never wish for things going back, nostalgia can be an unhealthy addiction. I look back at perfect moments and hold them in my mind like a photo and that’s all we have are moments.

    And time itself changes feelings and you can’t go back before the rot set in because the rot stays. And you compromise or not.

    Life lessons are wonderful. So is pain and sadness because they forge a new person.

    Your young friend can never go back, maybe she should suffer and move forward.

    XO
    WWW
    Wisewebwoman recently posted..Dear Diary

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