Overcoming Nostalgia (for lack of a better title)

I’m in the middle of a phase. Not quite spring cleaning, not quite a purge, but something in between. One of those periods in which I feel compelled to rid myself of the untouched, the unused, the excess.

Over the last few weeks, I have been regularly going through my books, videos, and CDs to pick out those items that I haven’t read, watched, or listened to for a while; that no longer hold the importance they once did; that I can sell for much-needed infusions of cash.

This phase was precipitated by the depletion of my savings, the money I have been living on for the past two years.

What started as a post-divorce sabbatical for the purpose of regrouping was cut short by a re-emergence of the anxiety I thought I had left behind. Instead of looking for work after six to twelve months, I was looking for ways to keep the anxiety at bay, if not eliminate it altogether.

In financial terms, the delay turned out to be costly. Doctor visits, counseling, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, and yoga—until I determined what was and was not working (and it took the better part of a year), it all added up.

Fortunately, the restlessness that went along with all this is what led me to consider doing something with my poems. That, in turn, led me to publish my first two poetry collections. That soon led me to focus more on writing, begin attending open mics, and gain a greater sense of well-being. I am in a much better space now than I was when this all began.

Unfortunately, none of this has had any impact on my income—and the copy editing work I have been doing has not been enough to cover all of my expenses. So, down, down, down my bank balance went.

Back to the present…

Figuring out what I feel comfortable getting rid of has been a surprisingly difficult task, even though it is not the first time I have done this. Some things are harder to let go of, even if I haven’t read, watched, or listened to them for quite some time.

In thinking about why this is, I have come to the conclusion that most of the difficulty stems from nostalgia. Yes, nostalgia. I have trouble parting with some things because of where and when I bought them, or because they subsequently acquired some emotionally significant meaning for me.

For example, I once hesitated to get rid of a David Bowie box set because I bought it while on the verge of a panic attack, feeling as though I were about to pass out in the checkout line. I had gone to such great lengths to buy it, I reasoned, that the effort would be wasted if I were to sell it now. I eventually got past that line of reasoning—but, as I started looking through my CDs, here it was again.

Today, it finally hit me that some of this nostalgia is not even good nostalgia. Why should I want to hang on to things that remind me of times when I was miserable? Really—what good does that do me now?

I figure that this tendency is little more than a vain attempt to hold on to parts of my life that were already gone a long time ago. Either that, or feelings yet unresolved. Or maybe both, in some cases.

Still, the process is a gradual one—this I know from experience. It is enough for the moment that I now recognize this trait in myself, because, as I discover this kind of attachment at work elsewhere, it will become easier (I hope) to let go of those attachments that no longer serve me—and there will be that much less to hold me back.

(9 June 2015—edited/posted June 10)