Nostalgia

It’s 7:23pm, my second-favourite time of the day. I’m seated before this gorgeous summer view of a lake in the city centre, one of hundreds in this region. Finzi, a delightfully fat cat (named after the composer, naturally) graciously sharing his home with me for a few days, sits on the table next to my laptop (where he probably shouldn’t be, but I haven’t the heart the remove him), rubbing his head up against the screen in a proprietary way. A pot of tea (Canadian Breakfast – who knew that existed?) steeps close to hand.

I’m sore everywhere from a weekend canoe/camping trip through the northern wilderness in the best of company. Only moderately bitten – my English friends fared far worse – and not even sunburnt; just slightly bruised from portaging canoes with terrible form and from sleeping on hard ground, as we do.

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The weather was gorgeous; sunshine, a beautiful sunset filtering through clouds that moved in slowly, only to part briefly later once more to reveal thousands of stars, the Milky Way in all of its glory. An evening I relive in fragments throughout the day. We sit together on rocks by the water, spellbound at the sight, only the sounds of crackling fire, cricket chirps and a lone loon calling disrupting the stillness of the night we’re blanketed in. Conversation starts again, tentative then stronger, veering off in any and all directions. We drift away to bed sometime around midnight.

Back at home, plans for the week are quickly set. Breakfast, bubble tea, yoga, movies – sand filling empty space between prescheduled priorities. I meet a friend for an impromptu pedicure, head to my parent’s house for pizza and conversation, then return to my haven of quiet – where it is now 7:39, Finzi has settled into sleep on the table, and a cup of milky tea sits close to hand.

I am happy right here, right now, in this moment. The feeling sits warm and light in my chest, swelling from time to time and giving me the urge to laugh, to run, to skip down the street and sing at the top of my lungs. And, as tends to happen when everything feels this perfect, I feel tendrils of sadness, of memory and longing, wind their way delicately around my heart, suppressing these impulsive tendencies.

Not entirely; just enough to keep me sitting here, at the table, ever writing. I take a sip of tea and reflect on how everything seems to have a counterbalance. Every sad moment has a silver lining. Happiness is often accompanied by nostalgia. Achievement and accomplishment bear the weight of next expectations. To be buoyant, something with a greater density, something heavier, has to be beneath, pushing upwards.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. With every passing year of my life, I become more and more convinced that Newton’s laws apply to emotions. Emotional physics. Innate to biology and driven by chemistry – why not?

I’ve long had a difficult relationship with nostalgia. It’s often been an unwanted and dreaded companion to pleasant experiences – sometimes, to the point of pre-emptively making an experience less enjoyable. At the same time, it’s a feeling  I actively seek sometimes, through listening to songs that evoke certain feelings, perusing old photographs, or rereading emails and letters and journal entries.

Nostalgia is something I’m learning to sit with, as with anything that’s uncomfortable – take, for example, anxiety. The difference is that nostalgia is addictive in a way that a feeling like anxiety cannot be, providing you with a bittersweet hit of days long past, tempting you with the idea that everything then was so wonderful and killing you with the promise that you’ll never experience the same thing again, or the idea that you experienced something horribly sad which your future experiences will forever be coloured by, or any other dichotomy.

Nostalgia is countered by being present. Staying in the here and now, enjoying moments as they arise – and letting them go once they’ve passed. There is always something else to look forward to.

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