Recently, I caught myself thinking about life-pre-February-2020 as the good old days – the days when things were certain – or normal.
Thankfully, it didn’t take me too long to remember that there wasn’t a lot of certainty in my life as a consultant back in February either, and the normalcy of a life in a society with so many dysfunctional disparities, wasn’t actually the normal life I wanted to return to.
Then, I found myself reminiscing about the good old 80’s when I was a teenager, at a peak of intellectual curiosity, when I discovered music, literature, politics and I transgressed all sorts of boundaries. I can’t evoke this time without remembering how I traded my authenticity and appetite for learning with the world of appearances, in order to be included in the culture and avoid failure at any cost.
I ended up thinking about the good old 70’s, when my mother sewed squares of Vichy cotton fabric, yellow and white, at the bottom of my jeans, and when, supposedly, I wasn’t worrying about anything. Except that it was exactly the time when I started to worry about everything. This was after unexpectedly discovering that life had an end and that I would lose all my loved ones eventually. I don’t think my nervous system ever fully recovered from this premature revelation.
So, yes, it’s tempting to cling to certainty by seeking comfort in a delusional memory of the past, seemingly perfect and safe, and forget the vital nuances of our experiences – than to stay present in the discomfort of what we don’t know right now.
And there is a lot we don’t know now.
I realized that I rarely refer to the good old 90’s. I don’t think it’s just because the fashion was ugly then! Perhaps it’s because the 90’s were my most dissonant years when I was applying myself to learn to be conscious and live in reality.
If nostalgia means literally being homesick, perhaps, when the temptation to indulge in the past arises, I have to remember that the only safe home I can return to, is the concrete reality of my alive body, no matter its vitality, and the certainty that when I feel bad, it will pass.
Reflective question: “What are your good old days? Do you invoke nostalgia as an escape mechanism?”