Inspiration, Lifestyle

The dark side of nostalgia: I live in the past and have to stop

“Nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent. In Greek, nostalgia literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship. It’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called the carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels – around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved.” – Don Draper, Mad Men

It’s Good Friday, and I’m feeling reflective. As I write this, the world is experiencing very strange and trying times as we navigate the horrific COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve rarely left my house in the past month, gotten laid off from my part-time PR agency job, and had to deal with my anxiety, which has been the highest it has in years.

One of the symptoms of my anxiety is insomnia and bad sleep. I’ll wake in the middle of the night and be deluged with thoughts. Worries about the uncertainty all of us are facing. Reflections about my life. Ideas for what I can do to continue growing my business. And they keep me up for hours.

Last night was no different. But the topic of choice for my sleepless thoughts was the fact that I live in the past, and I need to stop.

I believe I’ve written about this briefly before. By nature, I am a very reflective, nostalgic person. I like to relive old, good memories. One of my favorite things to do is listen to songs and be transported back to the time when I first heard them, remembering what perfume I wore, what the weather was like, and what I was dealing with.

While I think most people enjoy those things, too, I unfortunately experience a dark side of nostalgia and memory. Basically, I have a tendency to freeze myself in the past. In my mind, old friends are the same people. Everything is the same. Nobody and nothing has changed.

Except this isn’t true in the slightest.

As I play back memories, especially the unpleasant ones, I get swarmed with thoughts about what I did wrong, what I could have done differently, and if there’s still a chance to fix it. I’m also a big closure person, so if I feel a chapter hasn’t ended properly, it’ll honestly bug me for years and I’ll keep trying, albeit hopelessly and probably pathetically, to try and close it. I am that person who will feel bad about something they said or did three years ago, and will keep trying to apologize for it. And if met with silence, it’s devastatingly painful.

But often, it’s a useless tactic. Why? Because some people are not like me. Some people can move on, change, and view me as someone who belonged in a part of their life they’ve either grown from or no longer wish to revisit. It could be because I did something, or it could have nothing to do with me at all. And the truth is, I might never know.

Wow, that sounds kind of sad! But it’s really not meant to. It’s more so just accepting the fact that people outgrow each other, and even if one party still wishes to remain in contact, the hard truth is that the other one doesn’t due to their own reasons or something someone did, or they just don’t recognize that part of themselves anymore.

And the same goes for me. There have been friends who were meant for one period of time in my life, and there are some who have stayed with me until now. There are some friendships that were toxic that I had to end abruptly, and there are some that just phased out. All are completely normal parts of life.

Now that I’ve really spent time acknowledging this (self-quarantining really does allow for all the thoughts), I’m trying to actively practice methods of moving on. I think the biggest one is forgiving others and myself. People screw up, I’m no different, and I learned lessons that I’ll apply to now and the future. The other is really, truly trying to focus on the moment and be mindful. While I think it’s great to reminisce on the good times of the past or plan for the future, the reality is that we only have the present for sure.

So right now, I’m trying to focus on the sound of the wind, my cat sleeping by the window, and the quiet, peaceful sound of typing in our house.

My mistakes don’t define me. People’s opinions don’t define me. Only I decide that.

And right now, I’m deciding to define myself as someone who is learning, every day, how to be a better person. As someone who is honest, vulnerable, compassionate, and willing to move on.

Thank you for reading. ❤



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