I spend a lot of time wallowing in nostalgia. It is, in fact, my favorite place to wallow. But I don't just wallow blindly. I've spent a lot of time trying to figure nostalgia out. Why do things in our past look so much more fun and enjoyable and carefree when we know that it didn't feel like that at the time? Is it just rose-colored hindsight? or do we actually see clearer from a distance, and what we were blind to back then is achingly obvious now.
I remember several years back I was working as a cook in a bar. When I got a break I used to sit outside the kitchen door on an upturned bucket, smoke cigarettes and think. One thing I thought about was how in the future I would look back to this time, this place, this moon, this bucket with a great deal of nostalgia. I wondered why I didn't feel like that now. And I discovered that I could, that even though the job wasn't a great one, it was the right job for me at the time. I had just ended an unhappy marriage and I really loved working at a place where people were loud and happy. I enjoyed cooking, I liked being around my co-workers and people I had met since starting work there. I didn't have a lot of money, but I had enough to do the things I wanted to do. Life was good and there was no reason to worry.
Ever since I've been able to experience moments of that awareness. I can do it right now, just reflecting on the fact that I somehow convinced the girl of my dreams to marry me and I've kept her for 14 years and counting, that my children are all doing well navaigating the perils of growing up, that both my parents are still around and I can visit them on the weekend. It doesn't always work, but when it does you can feel that golden glow of nostalgia envelop you.
But then of course the toilet breaks or the traffic is stalled and I'm late. But even when it works I want more. I want to live there all the time. I know it's not easy; I'm not sure it's possible. And even if it's possible it may not be healthy. In high school I played the part of the Stage Manager in a production of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town". If you've seen that play then I know you remember when Emily was allowed to come back from the dead for one day. She wanted to pick the happiest day of her life, but she was not allowed to do that, it would have been too much. And just reliving an ordinary day was almost too more than she could bear -- especially seeing how everybody else just sleepwalked through their lives, blind to all the amazing stuff around them. So maybe earth is too wonderful for anyone to realize every, every minute; even saints and poets can only do it some.
But I want to try. I want to wallow in a constant state of nostalgia for right now.