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 “…a flutter in his stomach warned him to slow down and be sure he really wanted her back. Warned him not to mistake the pain of losing her for an active desire to have her. ” ( Freedom,  Jonathan Franzen, 2010)

During the holiday season we all know that we are more susceptible to spending too much, to sleep deprivation, to breaking our diet, to increased stress and even to getting sick.  Rarely do we consider our susceptibility to Nostalgia. Merrily we skip along through the holidays and suddenly, an expected Christmas card, an old song on the radio, or contact from a old love through Facebook  and we find ourselves tripping and falling head first into one of the unseen potholes of Nostalgia.

If your relationship ended in the last few years, the Holidays bring the loss sharply back into view. Those potholes (self doubt, missing him, thoughts of reconciliation, loneliness, etc) that are deftly avoided all year are now snow covered with merriment and we cheerily proceed along through our festivities unaware that just under the smooth surface lies those sudden and jarring dips in our road.

Once we tumble into that rut, it becomes a major challenge to get out. We find ourselves thrown in to questioning choices and feelings we thought we had put to rest. As we confront our feelings of loss it is easy to mistake that for an “active desire” to be with- or even reconcile with- the lost love. Conviction helps us climb out of the rut as quickly as we can, but with self doubt we dig an even deeper hole.

Nostalgia doesn’t discriminate between what is healthy for us and what is not. It glosses everything-softening the edges and blurring the pain. Nostalgia is like the soft glow of the streetlights on your dirty windshield at night. It blurs the old relationship. In this softer light with the hard edges eliminated , pain  and memory are erased!!  Your vision is impaired and your vulnerability to potholes is greatly increased.

Take it slowly on these roads. Exercise care.  Heed the words of Jonathan Franzen’s character Joey. He is insightful enough to recognize the different between the pain of loss and the desire to reconcile.

Here’s some “rules for the road” to keep your emotional windshield free of distorting elements like revisionist history, miminization and denial. With a little maintenance and mindfulness, you can avoid taking a tumble into the pothole of Nostalgia.

  1.  Don’t mistake your mood for the man. You may feel lonely, but that doesn’t mean you want him (or her)back.
  2.  Watch your alcohol intake. Alcohol distorts the brains ability to make rational decisions. Don’t drink and dial.
  3. Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation alters our mood.
  4. Ditto for sugar intake. Those chocolate chip cookies are yummy but remember the sugar crash that will visit you later.  You don’t need to encourage the “blues” which will only serve to further distort your emotions.
  5. Talk through your feelings with someone you trust. Do not isolate yourself. That could lead to doing something impulsive.
  6. Don’t accelerate when you should slow down! Before taking any action-wait until after the holidays. Chances are, in the reality of January, your “windshield” will clear and you see things differently ( “What WAS I thinking??”) and have saved yourself (and the other) a lot of heartache.

Some of you may be approaching Potholes from different angles-that is, your ex is contacting you or suddenly your current relationship seems lacking.  All of these are, of course, variations of the same phenomenon. Recognize these “epiphanies of the heart” are not necessarily permanent. Now is not the time for action. Long after the mood passes you will have to deal with the mess.

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12 Comments

  1. kathleen on the 19. Dec, 2010 remarked #

    WAIT UNTIL JANUARY! SO TRUE!!!

  2. Jan on the 19. Dec, 2010 remarked #

    Potholes come up so fast and you don’t see them as you drive along. All of a sudden you are jolted and — whammo — nostalgia hits you, right in the heart. You find yourself back in time as a love song, coated in holiday glaze (i.e., extra sugar) plays on the radio. Visions of a white Christmas, a roaring fire, hot chocolate and packages wrapped under the tree spring to life. You can smell Christmas cookies baking in the oven.

    Then you realize YOU started the fire, YOU made the hot chocolate, YOU wrapped and bought (including your gifts to yourself) all the packages under the tree that YOU put up and decorated, after dragging the boxes up from the cellar. And, oh yeah, YOU baked the cookies, and the breads, and the Christmas dinner…..

    So, if you hit a pothole, step UP out of it and wait for January.

  3. Kat on the 20. Dec, 2010 remarked #

    AMEN Jan! Christmas has always been my fav time of year. One of my fav xmas songs is “Merry Christmas Darling” just due to the longing romance of it. When I think back to all of the holidays when I drove myself into the ground to make sure everyone had a wonderful holiday, I now wonder why? Did it make a difference? NO!

  4. Lydia on the 20. Dec, 2010 remarked #

    Although I have been out of my marriage for a long time, the potholes do appear…in the form of how do we try to have a Merry Christimas when there are six kids between me and my boyfriend of 5 years.
    We are in two different states and we are far from the Brady Bunch…everything is so strained and difficult…I do sometimes long for the days when my life didn’t have these complications, when I was married to my 3 childrens’ father, and although it wasn’t a good marriage, we could plod along and there were no “outsiders” to consider…so now when I hear the sugary Christmas music that is drummed into our heads daily for a month straight…I know I’m headed for a pothole.

  5. CJ Golden on the 20. Dec, 2010 remarked #

    Oh yeah! I’ve fallen into some of those potholes in my life and have learned to now fill them with the love that now surrounds me. Hard to fall into a filled pothole.

  6. Laura on the 20. Dec, 2010 remarked #

    With each passing year, as my children are now young adults & I find myself newly divorced (again) this year, our motto is “keep it simple”. The best present my kids can give me is their time. Watching White Christmas & Steel Magnolias with my 14 year old daughter, having her love the movies, that was a gift.

  7. Judy on the 21. Dec, 2010 remarked #

    It’s hard to understand how to handle the “holiday” when you do not see “someone” all year but on what is to be a a “special” day they are included. What was that comment – they should not just get to pick “the good stuff”…

    Potholes are part of many days – I like the comment just keep them full!!
    Thanks, Donna!!

  8. Young Gardner on the 23. Dec, 2010 remarked #

    Potholes are part of many days – I like the comment just keep them full!! Thanks, Donna!!

  9. Christina on the 23. Dec, 2010 remarked #

    Don’t drink and dial. That’s different. We say, Dial and don’t drink! I love your article! Thanks. Still can’t hear “I’ll be home for Christmas” without tearing. Glad you are in my life. Have a wonderful holiday!
    Christina

  10. Imogene Love on the 24. Dec, 2010 remarked #

    Potholes are part of many days – I like the comment just keep them full!! Thanks, Donna!!

  11. Liliya on the 26. Dec, 2010 remarked #

    I love this post! You have a great blog here!

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