On Letting Go, Part VII: Your Glory Days and the Past in General

Nostalgia is a curious word. It was an invented compound word from the Greek Nostos, meaning to return home, and Algos, meaning Longing, and the modern medical Latin Algia, referring to the sensation of pain.
As the story goes, it was created to describe a form of malaise suffered by Swiss mercenaries during the seventeenth century during extended absences from their homes, and marked the birth of the expression Homesick.
In modern times it has been subject to many variations of its interpretation, ranging from the triggering of memories of better days or happier times, either as Restorative Nostalgia where one wishes for a return, vs. Reflective Nostalgia, which tends to dwell on the pain itself, or to the actual objects, situations, or stimuli ranging from music, tastes, smells, sounds, or images that trigger the memories.
Numerous researchers claim that Nostalgia may be a coping mechanism that may result in hopeful anticipation of the future or acceptance of the present situation, or even the encouragement of seeking extension of one’s social network and support mechanisms.
In general, I disagree.
The basis of my disagreement is based mostly on anecdotal experiences and observations, as well as some recent research, but it would appear that from sometime during a man or woman’s thirties on, the potential for the onset of angst over lost youth, optimism, or opportunities seems to loom in front of them so ominously that it would appear to obscure their view of virtually everything else…much like not seeing the forest for the trees.
My personal favorite modern interpretation of Nostalgia is the pain of remembering….
That is not to say that one cannot feel hope or joy in remembering, especially those peak moments in one’s life, as well as the more mundane but nonetheless memorable mile markers each of us experiences throughout our lives that are long gone and no longer accessible for any number of reasons.
They may help nurture and renew stale or tainted relationships by serving as a reminder of what once was (and what may be once again possible)…maybe.
They can also provide perspective. If they trigger introspection they may be therapeutic, so long as they do not result in excessive rumination, and remorseful lamentation.
The other danger comes from wallowing in an excessive preoccupation with one’s Glory Days as an escape mechanism that enables denial of one’s current situation as a substitute for living fearlessly, positively, and creatively in the present.
Too often, this type of nostalgia reflects a revisionist history of idealized memories for something that never existed in the first place.
I cannot deny that I have not suffered from my own share of all of those above-listed negative experiences of Nostalgia at one time or another. I do not judge and it is not my intention to ridicule…at least not most of the time…
I still reserve the option however, to use self-lampoon whenever necessary if I believe it will help illustrate a point without impugning anyone else’s character, with the exception of the rich, the famous, and anyone pompous enough to run for or hold political office.
I hope I don’t have to explain why.
As always, the real issue is one of A Question of Balance.
No one really knows if it is a good idea to look at photo albums of one’s childhood, a wedding album, or reminders of other sorts of past lives during a bout of depression for instance, at least not until after the fact, and just because it makes you sad initially doesn’t mean it won’t be good for you eventually.
That part is up to you. If it gives you perspective, hope, or encouragement (or maybe even an erection), then good.
But if it sends you into a flat spiral from which there is no recovery you will be pretty much fucked unless you either snap out of it, or seek the help of a competent mental health care professional.
Unfortunately, unless you already know one, or trust the advice of someone who does, you are probably not in any condition to know the difference between the competent and all the rest who are merely perpetrating a fraud via a degree and certification who can’t accomplish one of the first and most important admonishments which is to “heal thyself” as well as “do no further harm”.
You never know…any pen can write the poison thought that can unravel your sanity, and once you open the box it’s damn near impossible to get all the demons back in.
I’ve lost almost half a decade more than once as a result of bad decisions…I certainly can’t recommend any sort of roadmap to avoid catastrophe and heartache, or for that matter, any way out once you find yourself there.
That’s why I don’t pretend to give advice…only perspective.
I refuse to accept responsibility for anyone else’s bad decisions. I’ve made too many of them myself, and the whole point of it is that in the end, it’s all up to you to figure it out for yourself.
That’s about the closest I come to giving advice.
So what is the point of this diatribe then?
Just this: no matter how shitty your judgment is, or how far you fall, as the saying goes, “It’s not about how many times you fall, it’s about how many times you get back up again.”
And I am in fact living proof that it is possible to survive ridicule, ruin, bankruptcy, divorce, addiction, catastrophic emotional and physical injuries, a seemingly endless free-fall from a state of Grace that was once beyond my wildest dreams, any death other than your own, mind-numbing depression, an endless series of dead-end career decisions and even the realization of one’s own mortality and still find Peace, Love, the ability to harmonize apparent discord, and a sort of realization of Happiness without either a frontal lobotomy or a bottle in front of me.
Not that I deny my affection for various degrees of strong drink and any number of experimental and recreational drugs, but then again, it’s A Question of Balance…I regard them as a means, not an end unto themselves.
Love many and trust few, and always paddle your own canoe.
Koo Koo Katchu.
Sometimes you are the Walrus, sometimes the Carpenter, or maybe even the Lobster.
Whatever you did or did not do to get you wherever you are, especially if it was due to circumstances beyond your control, you will be the one who is responsible for the outcome…you either survive and thrive, or improvise, adapt and overcome…or else.
Or else what?
Or else you don’t.
The past is behind us. It is a dream of what we were. The future will arrive all by itself without our help or worry, and the non-existent ever-present-never-present present moment is gone as soon as it arrives.
We live in a dream of an illusion of a virtual space between what was and what will be.
Just don’t wallow in the past.
It will all be over far sooner than you expected.

Namasté
नमस्ते
Chazz Vincent
07/18/2015

2 Responses to “On Letting Go, Part VII: Your Glory Days and the Past in General”

  1. I think of nostalgia as… Poignant remembrance. The way fresh-baked sugar cookies at Christmas time remind me of my great-grandmother. Fond memories, laced with love but embroidered with the sadness of a loved one lost.

    Rewriting the past and reliving the “glory days”? Ugh. My dad is living that delusion and it is revolting. *shudder*

    • Indeed, there are many positive, as well as negative aspects to nostalgia. “Poignant remembrances” are beautiful and life-affirming. Often, they teach us to not take tomorrow’s memories for granted while we are in the midst of them.
      As for the others…it seems like fifty-plus has become the new age of onset of mid-life crisis. Maybe we will live to be over a hundred, but that doesn’t entitle us to act like mal-adjusted teen-agers.
      Between that and the way commercialism is cashing in on their neurosis I felt compelled to search for some perspective.
      For me, I have been embracing a process of “Letting go” of everything long enough to decide what is good for me, and what isn’t.
      Thank you for the reminder of what is.
      Chazz
      You Matter

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