A Long Silence
“Silence is golden”, discuss. That’s reminiscent of university admission essay questions I had to answer a very long time ago. I think of some of them now, remember that I found loads to write in response and wonder into what black hole my brain has tumbled in the intervening years.
It’s certainly a very long time since I blogged here. I’m quite sure that my silence hasn’t had anything golden about it. Rather I think that the wearyingly groundhog day quality of the pandemic and lockdown has for me, as for I suspect many of us, sapped the will to live, to do anything beyond what is strictly necessary. Humans, to function, need many things. Among those is being able to plan for the future, indeed to have any sense of a future which we can shape. Instead we find ourselves able only to make the most tentative of plans most of which are conditional on circumstances outside our own control. Speaking from experience, it’s very like living in the shadow of terminal illness and cancer treatment where the future shrinks over time to an ever diminishing pinprick.
So I guess shaking myself off and writing this is me taking a step towards normalcy just as is the plan to take a drive with my son next week so that we can walk together after not seeing him in the flesh for for five months. It all highlights how skewed our ordinary day to day lives have become, how far removed we are from the pattern of the boringly quotidian which we took for granted until the spring of last year.
There is I think a reminder there for us family mediators. The pandemic is an event which has affected us universally, an event where, realistically, there is as yet no end on sight. We merely take steps towards greater freedoms. In our mediation day job every one of our clients has suffered a seismic shift in their reality. Their lives are upended. In almost every case one at least of the couples with whom we work struggles to envisage a future in their altered landscape let alone having any ability to shape that future. Every client is exiled from the past and the security of a jointly planned future, even when he or she is the one who decided to make the break.
One of my favourite things either in my old incarnation as a divorce lawyer or as a mediator has always been to work with people to help them to see that there is indeed a future for them and to help them to start to make that future. If you are a divorce lawyer or a mediator you are often asked how you manage to do such depressing work. Clients engaging our services are making a distress purchase. Nobody’s life dream is to spend hours with a divorce professional.
However there is a lot that is positive in either role one thing being that chance to help people towards a future place. That isn’t going to be the place they planned on reaching but it can still be a good place. The needs factor in section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act isn’t some dry legal concept but an invitation to step out into a new world of your own making. Obviously there are constraints beyond the emotional. There is the very real challenge for most people of stretching what is available to cover tenable needs for both people and any children involved. However explaining to clients how important it is that they begin to craft their own future in the context of resources is a way of returning some sense of control. Working around the issues involved in mediation can be very positive.
To all my mediation clients and potential clients, I can promise that there has to be a solution and that, with cooperation between them, both can make a new life. To all of us, here’s to a return to a life which, whilst perhaps never the same as it was before the pandemic, we can all embrace as a life which allows us, our families and friends to flourish.