Saturday, July 20, 2013

Thoughts on Nostalgia

Nostalgia: a sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Upon getting married, I fully expected to experience that short stretch of time known as the honeymoon phase. A time when you are so happy to be together that nothing else really matters or concerns you. We didn't even have a trace of the honeymoon phase after getting married. We had too many other things to deal with, and life was very difficult for us. During this time, Owen turned to childhood nostalgia as a means of alleviating the daily stress.

I felt so saddened by my new husband's yearning for a time that didn't include me. Rather than excitement for our new life together, he desired to turn to the past. I know better now that this didn't have to do with me so much as our being thrust into adult life, and with the added responsibility of caring for an extra person. As much as our society has progressed past traditional roles, many married men still feel the pressure to provide necessities as well as luxuries for their wives and children, sending many men yearning for Rosebud*

The term Nostalgia, coined in the 1600's, was first used as a medical condition for people, often soldiers or sailers, who were so homesick that they lost their senses. In modern times nostalgia has developed a more positive connotation as suggested by the dictionary definition above. Now, nostalgia is often viewed as an enjoyable way to recount the past with friends and family. 

According to recent research on nostalgia, New York Times: What is Nostalgia Good For?, it can help people feel more connected to their communities and their loved ones and can make life feel more worthwhile. At its best nostalgia isn't a yearning or a comparison to a less happy present, but a time of reflection.

I find that when Owen and I can share in nostalgia, such as in comparing childhood stories or recounting happy memories from the beginning of our relationship we feel closer to one another and happier to be together. 

For my birthday this week, Owen (not a morning person) woke up at 7:15 to light the charcoal grill. We cooked french toast and bacon over the fire, and nestled a foil bowl of strawberries and peaches under the grate. My sister found a tablecloth and set the table with pretty glass.

The food tasted so good that I found myself eating it very quickly. At some point I realized what I was missing in my haste-- I stopped eating and looked at my family and looked at the beautiful food. I breathed the image in and stored it in a place in my mind that I could look back to it years from now for future nostalgia. 

*In the film Citizen KaneCharles Foster Kane, a rich and successful businessman with two failed marriages, dies alone in his mansion uttering the words "Rosebud." Journalist Jerry Thompson spends the rest of the film trying to understand Citizen Kane's personal life and the significance of Rosebud. In the end of the film, viewers learn that Rosebud refers to his childhood sled, a symbol of the happiest, most free time of his life. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Love is Sharing the Awkward

Embarrassment is an emotional state of intense discomfort with oneself, experienced upon having a socially unacceptable act or condition witnessed by or revealed to others.

When I was in my early teens, my family had dinner at Pappadeaux for the first time. At the end of the meal, our waiter took our left-overs to the kitchen to package them. A few minutes later he returned with another waiter from the restaurant. He explained to us that the other waiter had lost our left-overs, and insisted that the other waiter apologize, making certain that we knew it was not his fault. It was so insignificant a moment, but my emotional response was so strong that it has always stuck with me: I felt disgusted that our waiter was so evasive of blame as to cause more embarrassment than necessary for the waiter who lost the food. It was such an unimportant thing--losing the left-overs.

This memory pairs with a later one in my mind, when I was staying with a friend of a friend and accidentally broke a ceramic bowl. I was so embarrassed and felt so awkward. My friend, one Lisa York, joined in my mistake by telling the other, "we broke a bowl," thus relieving me of my embarrassment.  That is a good friend. 

Have you ever seen it when one partner in a couple is clearly embarrassed by the other? One partner may tell a joke that doesn't go over well in a crowd, and rather than laughing anyways, the other partner rolls his or her eyes. Such a response to an awkward moment not only reveals discomfort with the hypothetical embarrassing partner, but a lack of loyalty or compassion in the relationship. I know when I see this pattern in other couples I'm usually more bothered by the partner rolling his eyes than I am by the partner telling the lame joke.

Awkward Engagement Photo
Yet, sometimes being the eye-roller is tempting. When your partner says or does something that you would never do-- maybe dancing badly or giving away a little too much personal information
-- it feels like others will attribute the awkward behavior to you, and distinguishing yourself as separate from the behavior is the natural reaction. 

When we give into the temptation to separate ourselves from something embarrassing our partner does, we create separation not only from the behavior, but from the partner (and being unsupportive of our partners doesn't look very good to onlookers either). Is trying to save ourselves from a little embarrassment really worth divisive actions?

Joining in on an awkward moment and acting as if it isn't awkward or embarrassing at all not only avoids divisiveness, but creates a stronger partnership over all. Let the world laugh. What does it hurt?

"There's a certain character that can be built from embarrassing yourself endlessly. If you can sit happy with embarrassment, there's not much else that can really get to ya." Christian Bale