Looking ahead, moving forward

Columnist Kita Szpak offers her favourite advice as we enter 2023


Susan Cain is a former lawyer-turned-writer whose book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” was one I read with great appreciation a few years ago. She extolls the virtues of introverts and the power of silence, and as an introvert and lover of quiet solitude, I resonated with her words. Whether all writers are introverts is another story to be told another time.


In any case, Cain has another book out about sorrow and longing, “Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole” — timely for the circumstances we have just been through in the last two and half years. She speaks of her losses and calls attention to what we’ve all heard at one time or another: “Get over it.” “Just get on with it.” “Stop dwelling on it.”  

I lost my mother in January of this year, and “getting over it” is not the way I want to remember my experience of and with her. No doubt you have had losses at this time, too. Whether they are personal or professional, I venture to say that “getting over” them would not allow you the emotional closure you seek either.

Kita Szpak (left) and her mother, Irena Szpak. Irena, who moved to Ottawa in 2015 to be closer to family, died at age 95 in January 2022. Photo courtesy Kita Szpak

Is there another way of putting things that would better support us in these difficult circumstances — especially as we move into 2023?  It’s not a case of forgetting, removing, or ignoring what has happened, even if it’s heartbreaking and one wants to forget. I give you all credit for being mature enough to know that profound life experiences are not trivial matters to be disposed of, but to process and work through. In this regard, “going forward,” as Cain puts it, rather than “getting over it” seems so much more apt and frankly, sympathetic to the situation. Here my interpretation enters the picture.

“Getting on with it” presumes the latter is to be forgotten, dispensed with, and brushed over as soon as possible. Haste is important where dwelling on a sad occurrence is judged to be weak, faulty and even a waste of time in our praise of efficiency over introspection. Going slow in our society has always been suspicious. Not going at all is downright unacceptable.

Let’s turn to the other side of the coin. “Going forward” assumes, at least for me, acquired knowledge in the act of continuing no matter how slow. There is a sense of confidence, determination, and resilience with what has already taken place. What has been experienced has augmented whoever you already are as a human being. Greater wisdom and worth accompany you forward even if you have to stop and rest along the way. This respite is never denied you. In fact, it is granted you with going forward.

This going-forward path is the one I choose moving into 2023. No hurrying, no self-imposed, have-to deadlines, but a steady, calm pace that allows me to breathe freely, look thoughtfully, appreciate deeply, and treasure profoundly my mom and loved ones.