Geneviève Hone bits and Bites

Bits and Bites of Everyday Life

The ends of our worlds are upon us

Be sure to stock up on your accomplices

By Geneviève Hone
True North Perspective

Geneviève Hone is a grandmother, family therapist and social worker.  With her husband, Julien Mercure (also a family therapist), she has co-authored three books on couples and family life. Her home on the web is www.hone-mercure.com/index_hone_en.php.

 
  Image by Julien Mercure.

1 February 2013 — “Didn’t you go to the library yesterday?” inquires my husband as he sees me heading for the door, my library bag in hand. 

I did, I tell him, but I didn’t borrow books on the “sujet du jour”, i.e. the End of the World.  The date announced by the Mayan calendar is fast approaching and I'm curious, at least to a mild degree, about this whole phenomenon of predicting the future or, in this case, the non-future of our planet. 

Articles in newspapers are being published almost daily, some silly ones along the lines of To protect yourself and your loved ones in the event of an apocalypse, stack up on Vitamin B12, but quite a few propose good historical and philosophical reflections on our collective fear of the future. I feel the need to educate myself better on the subject, and the library is the place to do just that. I wouldn’t want to arrive at the scene of the end of the world without having done some research on the subject, no more than I would travel to a faraway place without first reading up on that country. It’s just not done! 

At the library, I head to the Express shelf, thinking that books on doomsday, if they exist, must certainly have been placed there. Time is of the essence here! At first glance, I don’t see any, so I move toward the children’s corner to catch up on what’s being produced in graphic-novel form for children and young-at-heart grandmothers.  

There, behind a bookshelf, as if hiding from their mothers, two boys, perhaps 10 or 11 years old, are discussing the end of the world. I hear them quite well as they speak in what could be described as “loud urgent hushed tones”, appropriate both for a library and impending doom. 

You want to get your message out before the cataclysm, but on the other hand, you don’t want to attract too much attention to yourself. You are already worried enough about not making Santa Claus’s “nice” list.  One problem at a time, thank you. 

I don’t catch all the words, but I hear one of the boys explain that the end of the world is like an “Upside down Big Bang”. He knows this will happen soon, because this has been predicted a long time ago by very old people who are now dead. The other boy’s answer to that is that his grandmother, though very old, is still alive, and she says that she is looking forward to many ends of the world and that there’s nothing to be afraid of. 

I chuckle a bit too loudly. The boys spot me and immediately clam up, perhaps thinking that I am an envoy of Santa Claus working on the naughty and nice list. 

I start walking home on a snowy and very slippery street, glad in a way that I haven’t found books on doomsday. Too much knowledge can weigh one down when trying to keep one’s balance! 

This is a busy street and a busy time of day, and I pass many people, young and old.  Some are bouncing along as if lightness of step will prevent them from falling flat on their backside. Others walk more cautiously recognizing that a broken hip or brain concussion can well bring the world as they know it to an end. I reflect that whatever their age, all these people have already experienced many “ends of the world”. Events in their lives have forced them to change, to adapt to new ways of doing things. Some events may have altered their lives dramatically: the loss of loved ones in tragic circumstances, accidents, illness, social upheaval, material loss. Other events, though not as painful, still have required adaptation and caused considerable stress. Happy events also, for that matter.

In my professional life as a family therapist, I have had the privilege of helping people learn. Helping families learn new ways of being together is in a nutshell what family therapists do. Clients of all ages would tell me of their pain, their anger and their fears for the future and ask for help in making necessary changes in their lives, changes that hopefully would lead them to greater health, joy and creativity. 

In my younger days, I was certainly more naïve than I am today and I was surprised to observe that too many people (in my less than humble opinion) did not implement the changes that they had intended. My then supervisor pointed out that I was neglecting to take into account that the enterprise of “change” is a risky undertaking; change, even for the better, may provoke a sense of deep loss, a sense of “this is the end of the world for me”. No wonder that not everybody was ready to embark full speed on the wonderful journey of learning and change, just because people around them (including me) thought they should.

I learned what I eventually taught generations of students: don’t initiate or propose change until you are certain that your clients have some support to help them as they face the challenges of change. Your clients need accomplices. Their accomplices may be their friends, members of their family, their faith, a project, books, music, meditation or even a new pair of jeans if that is what will help them ride the bumpy spots. Help your clients find or create accomplices tailored to their own needs, and as many as needed. And then, help them change.

I enter our apartment to be “greeted” at the door by an unsmiling husband. “I’ve been worrying. I don’t want you to ever go walking on treacherous streets.” He sounds like he means it.

I open my mouth to reply that I take orders from no one and that I am old enough to decide where I should go and when. But I catch my words just in time, realizing that he is not laying down a law, he is being my accomplice. He is supporting me in my decision to keep myself in good health as best I can. He’s right: a broken hip can certainly bring an end to the life a couple is enjoying together. “I won’t,” I reply.  He smiles, gives me a hug, and sweetly asks: “Did you bring me good books?” 

JANUARY 2013. We have officially survived the end of the world, as my friend Alberte announced in the title of her latest TNP column. She sneaked in a tiny question, but a good one: “NOW what?”  May I suggest an answer? NOW… take stock of your supply of accomplices. Make sure you have a good variety to help you through the ends of the world that 2013 will present. Replenish your pantry as necessary. And enjoy the process!

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