“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. A feeling of a place where we ache to go again.”
Thank you Pinterest for that ridiculously sappy yet desperately true quote. I can always count on you, ole friend, to show me thousands of quotes to speak for me when I’m not sure what to say. Over this last week I’m realizing, more than ever, the danger of nostalgia. Thinking of old memories, former times, & all the potentials that never came to fruition, brings forth a happiness overshadowed by depression. Remembering is a double-edged sword. It’s sweet yet sour. Be careful when you go searching for the good because, undoubtedly you’ll get a taste of the bad.
There is joy in remembering.
There is laughter in remembering.
There is conversation in remembering.
There are smiles in remembering.
There is imagination in remembering.
There is comfort in remembering.
There is peace in remembering.
There is healing in remembering.
But, oh, there is so much pain in remembering.
There is deep sadness is remembering.
There is mourning in remembering.
There is anxiety in remembering.
There is disruption in remembering.
There are wounds in remembering.
There is depression in remembering.
There may be sickness in remembering.
It hurts to remember.
Over the last five days I’ve been experiencing the latter, the fallout that comes from reminiscing a little too much. From traveling places in your mind that your heart is not yet ready to heal itself from.
Last weekend I spent 24 hours in Bowling Green, the college town that I used to call my “temporary home.” Other than the half hour detour we took through the town for Tyler’s proposal (I love remembering that day!) I had not been there is almost- exactly two years. I felt both excited & sick at the thought of revisiting this place which held so many life changing memories.
I got to spend the night with my future sister in law, Andrea, at her new apartment. We talked nonstop for hours on end while relaxing in the comfort of her cute place. The next day I spent time with my best friend, Erin, and her childhood best friend, Madison. I finally got to see where she lives & get a small glimpse of what her life looks like now. Those parts of the visit were wonderful, a blessing, a fun-easy going time with friends that I desperately needed.
But simply being in that place brought a mixed bag of emotions to the surface which I had loaded away & consciously chosen not to think about. Since the moment I left college I have been in complete survival mode- thinking about only my faith, saving my life, family, & finding the path to healing.
Because it hurts to remember.
I’m finally reaching a point where the next several years of this suffering are more predictable, much more known than before. I can slowly begin incorporating certain aspects of “normality” back into my life.
I knew there would be all-consuming pain in losing everything, but I had no idea how much pain would come with gaining, even the littlest, parts of it back.
While in survival mode, I didn’t dare unlock the hardest memories though they were just a swinging door away. Little did I know that going back to Bowling Green would force me to deal with some of the demons.
Gosh, it hurts to remember.
I looked around and visualized what could have been, if I had stayed. Glimpses of where I may have lived, businesses I may have worked, restaurants I may have eaten at, stores I may have shopped, and the friends I may have kept.
The last day I spent on campus, before I left and everything changed although my life had already turned upside down, played over in mind. Mostly the last few hours. It was a Saturday, 10/26/13, the day of Homecoming. I got dressed up for a football game with my friends, cried when they gave me a scrapbook filled with pictures & sweet farewell messages, went to half of the game– it was cold and I couldn’t risk getting sick. We went back to the sorority house where I lived and I played the familiar role of hair stylist as two of my closest friends prepared to go to a dance that evening. My parents pulled up, we loaded what was left of my belongings (we had packed up a week before) and I said my goodbyes. I had no idea the nightmare that was about to unfold. I did know I was having a gigantic surgery 48 hours later, spending at least a week in the hospital, finding out specifics about my tumor, & facing pain beyond comparison.
I can still picture Erin on the sidewalk behind the house, waving goodbye in her formal dress and heels, tears in her eyes as we pulled away, for the last time, from the place and life I had grown to love.
Two years later, as a completely different person, I felt that same twinge of pain as we pulled away from our little visit. Again, I left my best friend behind, watched her walk back inside, shut the door & go back to our very separate lives. The symbolism of that door is not lost on me.
Talking with Tyler’s sister forced me to consider his experience for the 1.5 years of college that he finished once I was gone. I considered the countless nights he spent in his apartment, alone in his room, filled with sadness & worry, wishing things to be different. I can clearly picture the expression of his hurt, heavy heart as he traveled alone, back and forth to visit me both in the hospital and at home. Traveling the interstate by himself, driving the same roads we drove for the first-nerve-racking family introductions and all the weekends after that we spent in each other’s hometowns.
How could he stand it? How brave & strong he had to be… Having to live in the place where we met, go to class on the campus where we walked hand in hand, visit the library where we studied, sit through service at the church where we worshipped, or eat at the places where we went on weekend dates.
I can feel his disappointment morning after morning as he checks his phone, only to find that yet again I was too sick to text back.
Satan uses these memories to shame me with feelings of guilt. He tries to tear me down and convince me that I am the source of pain. If I didn’t exist, I never could have gotten sick, and I never would have brought forth such sadness…
As He always does, God intercedes and comforts this anxious soul. He assures me that He is the one in control. No good thing would He, or has He, withheld from me. The things He has in store far surpass the things that I ache to have, experience, and be. The Lord tells me that if my life had not taken this detour, my relationship with Him couldn’t have grown exponentially… And isn’t that the one thing that truly matters in this life? All that has lasting value is spiritual. It’s faith.
Still, I am merely a human and even through the trust this life can feel impossibly difficult. And many times, every-single-day, it does. Dealing with your emotions, working through the pain is essential for moving forward with a clear mind. I mourn the many sides of me that have been lost, & all the aspects of life which have been stolen & may never return.
I hate that it hurts to remember.
On social media, you see only what I show you. Usually that’s a picture that took several tries to take, with a face which has been painted with makeup, hair styled, and outfit strategically chosen to create an image that represents merely ONE small portion of my day. I’m brutally honest & transparent but I do not share the majority of my pain with anyone. I do my best to ignore it.
Honestly, last weekend’s visit to my former “home away from home” has put me in a state of melancholy, aroused a depression inside that I’m doing my absolute best to work through. Tears, prayers, & time will lessen the wounds. I would rather not deal with these memories or handle this nostalgia, I wish I could run and hide. Yet, The Lord says to be brave, to take heart, & to live out the spirit of courage with which he has equipped us.
And so, that’s exactly what I will do.