I was looking up synonyms for nostalgia and came across a word that I had never really heard before. In fact I couldn’t find a definition in a dictionary other than the urban dictionary online, although many posts talked of anemoia. Anemoia is nostalgia for a time you’ve never known.
It can be fun for a moment to imagine yourself in a different time period, getting swept into a movie or song that gives you a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. A daydream that can easily be broken as you are mindful that it is not real. I will often watch a movie with the thought, “I wish I could have lived in the time period” and get a little carried away in thought of how things would have been in my life if I did. I also have the thought “Thank you God that I did not live in that time period” when I see outhouse and unsanitary living options in movies. Those thoughts can make me thankful for where I am right now as I return to the present.
However, often when we are hurting it is easy to leave reality and cling to the desire for that time or place. Nostalgia for a time that we have never known. When things were rough in my marriage, I found myself doing this a lot. I had two refuges in my mind I would go to when I was most unhappy.
The first was a longing for what I thought would make my marriage perfect. That takes on different definitions for different people, but in my mind I just knew that if my husband was a strong Christian man, leading our household spiritually as well as physically, financially, emotionally and in every other sense of the word, that we would not have the issues we did. In some sense, I still believe that, but my anemoia for that was broken as I got close to other Christian wives. When I started hearing how they talked about their spouses, I realized mine wasn’t too bad. I would rather give him the grace that he was not living for God than have the attitude some of the ladies did. So I changed my focus on what he was doing that I didn’t like to what he did that I did like. It went a long way in changing our marriage. I still want my spouse to be the spiritual leader of our household, but I am not disillusioned into thinking that everything will be perfect when he is.
The second place I would go in my mind was to my “Camelot” relationship. This was probably the most destructive thing I could do in my marriage. I had dated this guy for about three months prior to getting married. It was a relationship that never ran it’s course. It ended abruptly because I was a single parent cohabitating when I received a court order that said cohabitating was not allowed (as part of a bigger issue on child support). He didn’t have a place to live and moved out-of-state shortly after. Because the relationship was short lived, I didn’t get to know all the little things about him that would have caused us to have issues. In my mind, he got to be the perfect guy. So early in my marriage, when things got tough, my mind would go to the idea that with the Camelot guy things would be different. After I was divorced, I met up with him one day, and realized he was not “all that” we talked one other time while I was divorced and I found out he was into drugs pretty heavily.
Like I said though, when things aren’t as we think they should be, it is easy to long for a time that we have never known. The constant daydream of how life would be if you weren’t a broken vessel. When I got remarried, and things were tough, I would find myself searching his name on the internet. It was crazy and stupid, because I very well could have ruined the good relationship I had. I also spent more time fantasizing than working on making the relationship, the marital covenant that I was in, work.
When we are focused on what could be, we can not work on what is. We can’t change what is, if we are sentimentally longing or wistfully affectionate for the past. The past is gone. The only thing that we can change is the future and that means taking action in the present to make things better. Our actions are going to follow our thoughts, so our thoughts must be in the present. Leave nostalgia to the movies, and live in the present.
This blog post is inspired by Anita Ojeda and the #Write28Days Challenge. The challenge is to write 28 days in February. For more posts on this topic go to Broken Vessel.