The Sunday Edition
After coming out of a dream that was ripe with nostalgia, this--THIS--was exactly what I needed to read. Thank you.
This is one of my favourite pieces you’ve ever shared because it comforts me so much to know that I’m not the only one who feels this so deeply. Thank you for putting words to that feeling of longing for a time when we felt our own lives felt more filled with excitement, when the world felt a lot less dark and awful and I so innocently felt like the road ahead was paved only with things to look forward to. I’ve found that the almost mid 40s, for me,
has been a time to grapple with the weight of this feeling you describe so well and you’re right, it’s even more poignant this time of year as the darkness settles in. It’s so comforting that you put perfect words to these emotions.
I believe I have been able to experience a shadow of “bigness” again through my children’s eyes as they grew up. Sadly, you know they have left their childhood behind when they no longer experience the awe of new things in the same way. I think you are right about needing to seek out new experiences that will make us appreciate the bigness again- but also look to find something new in what used to seem big.
Reading your words while preparing my family home for sale, emptying boxes and folders and looking through photo albums after blowing the dust of the covers, I almost got swallowed by nostalgia. I left this house about 30 years ago and even my home country ten years later and still sitting here knowing this place will disappear of the map of places that I can visit is so freaking hard ... thank you for your words!!!
This completely and utterly is so true. You had me shout "oh my god, I get it now!!" upon reading this piece. I, too, carry this weighty grief and people whom I speak with about nostalgic things often say "but Em, it's fun to look back; it's good to remember the good times. Why are you sad?"
It's not like I don't remember the joy and the fun, etc; I do. But these memories come with more than just 'good' feelings.
Thank you for giving me language to better validate and describe how I feel.
Dang. I love this writing. And that's a super cute tiny human warrior-with-teddy-bears picture. I remember once going back to a house that I was a child in and had not been in since. And it was SMALLER than I remembered. I'm sure it seemed bigger as a child, or it lived bigger in my memory. It's such a great question to ponder, how to invite, or open to, that bigness now as a grown (growing?) human. How to stay tender to that arising nostalgia, how to listen to what it has to tell us, as you have hear. Hmmmm. Thank u.
Oh, this is just so timely. I love this.
I think it’s fair to say our perception gets smaller as we get crowded out by responsibilities, knowledge, and sadness. The bigness is still there though, you just have to look harder and longer to see it. I see it when I let all the adulting go and just bask in the pleasure of being outside in nature. I feel it when I’m in my lovers arms and everything narrows down and expands out into the universe all at once. Nostalgia IS grief, but daydreams are grief’s antithesis.
I thought on this one a lot this morning. Listened and reread a few times because, for me, I didn't make the connection between nostalgia and grief. I reflected on my nostalgia and it resonates more like gratitude in my mind. I don't mourn the past and when I look back on times gone by, I find myself reminiscing about the good memories more than the bad ones. But nostalgia is not reminiscing. I actually looked up the definition of nostalgia: "a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition." says our friends at Merriam Webster. In which case, nostalgia is indeed grief because we are yearning for something that we cannot get back. So what makes me nostalgic I then ask myself? Is it the yearning for the people I have lost? Missing the simpler times of life when responsibilities were not so much of a burden? Cool toys and games from the 80s and 90s? We throw around the term nostalgic a lot but in reality, I don't feel a longing to return to these things. Maybe the people, but that I equate to mourning not nostalgia. And yet both are grief when you think about it.
I spent the afternoon with an old Italian sailor who is an artist and a philosopher who has spent the last 30 years travelling the world with his beloved wife. She passed away last week. And alone he had to literally dig her grave and bury her in the local cemetery. He had asked me to come to the little room he had rented on the outskirts of our town where he had nursed her until she couldn't go on. Her metal framed bed was folded up beside his. He needed my help to sort through ten years worth of semi precious stones and jewelry that they had gathered in their travels to make and sell their art around the world. He needs to sell it all so he can return to Italy because he can't continue this lifestyle here without her. It is too hard and no longer has purpose he tells me. As we sat there, going through bag after bag of memories and places where they had bartered, bought and traded these beautiful stones, I thought again about this essay. And the nostalgia in the memories he shared. Every bag of stones, every piece of jewelry she made. The pain in his eyes was as profound as the beauty of their art. This irrevocable loss will now and for always anchor his memories in this sense of nostalgia. As he packs up a life of adventure to return alone to the life of a pensioner in a country and ideology that he has long since rejected, every day he will be nostalgic for the life he is leaving behind. And he will grieve for it as he does the dear woman whose remains will stay behind with all the memories they have made here. For him, nostalgia will always be grief.
I realize that thankfully, my nostalgia does resonate gratitude because I have not yet felt a loss that has crippled my whole world. I have felt great loss and pain and suffering as we all have, and there are people who I wish I could bring back. But I don't equate my mourning of their loss, to nostalgia. Maybe I am not that nostalgic when it comes down to it. And maybe I should be grateful for that.
Oh my goodness, this is crazy, today is Monday morning and I finally took my quiet time to read this…. I have to tell you about Sunday morning, mass, MY tears and my awakening….. we really are connected still…..
I've never thought of nostalgia this way until you put it so eloquently. It makes so much sense. This post is such a beautiful reminder that no matter our age, we can still find that bigness again.
A powerful and true statement. I think you hit the nail on the head that those two words are inseparable. The longing we feel is a natural part of the human experience. And amidst the nostalgia and grief and longing, there can still be joy. That's what is so beautiful and mysterious about this life.