Hello Nostalgia My Old Friend

I’ve been experiencing some pretty intense and all encompassing waves of nostalgia over the last little while.  It likely began in March when I started considering whether staying in Gatineau was the option I wanted to go with or whether I wanted to move back and find an apartment in Ottawa.

I’m from Ottawa, my French is poor at best, and if I am to be completely honest, I feel a bit like an outsider living here in Gatineau.  I should mention this outsider feeling is completely self-imposed.  I’ve had nothing but a great experience living in Gatineau for nearly a year.  My brutal merci’s are accepted at various deppaneurs and I am never shot dirty or discouraging looks for speaking in English.  I adore my current apartment and all of its old house charm.

The first sign though, that what was really driving my torn thoughts over staying in Gatineau versus moving back to Ottawa, was that I was only considering a move back to the apartment I lived in right before moving to Gatineau.  That apartment represented a number of things for me.  When I moved into the apartment in September of 2015, it was just a few weeks after my Dad had undergone brain surgery to drain the abscess that had formed as a result of the cerebral blastomycosis he had acquired.  It was the first time in months where I had experienced some relief as we had finally learned what was afflicting Dad’s health and that it was treatable, to boot.

I had also, just weeks before, finally summoned up the courage to get out of a very toxic and unhealthy year and a half long relationship.  The fall of 2015 was a time where I felt optimistic and strong and independent .  It seemed like life was on an upswing after a year of heartache and uncertainty.  Moving beyond the fall of 2015, I was able to experience so many great memories living in that particular apartment.  As such, I know my interest-albeit unresolved-to move back there stems from an intense inner desire to try to recreate everything I experienced there.  To recapture things.  To re-do life.

In addition to the pull I have felt over the last several months to return to my former Ottawa apartment, I’ve also caught myself daydreaming about a return to Northwestern Ontario.  Since I moved up to Grassy Narrows in August of 2005, I have always felt a strong pull and connection there.  Even when, after 6 years of living in Grassy, I moved into Kenora itself, I would still regularly drive up the Jones Road to spend an afternoon at Keys Lake, and attend the summer pow-wows.

When I look back on my time in Grassy and Kenora I know that this pull to return there is also really about a desire to re-create what I experienced there.  My nostalgia where Grassy and Kenora are concerned has skewed my perception and memory somewhat and has resulted in my putting that experience and time on a pedestal that is unrealistic.  I catch myself considering those 10 years to be a period of unadulterated growth combined with a peaceful simplicity that I haven’t been able to find elsewhere.  I know though, deep down that life was complicated and I went through my fair share of struggles and challenges there too.

Setting an alarm has also been an idea that nostalgia has crept into, as strange as that sounds.  As I have detailed in previous posts, for the last 17 years, I was a stickler for routine and structure and began setting early morning alarms to allow myself the time to fit a run or bike ride in before work.  There was always something quietly wonderful about being up before the rest of the world.  I found myself enjoying the peace and silence of the early morning, and I appreciated the great span of a day that would lay ahead of me in getting up so early.  For the past 4 weeks since I left my job, sleep and I have not had the best relationship.  Again, I naively thought that once I didn’t have the pressures of work, sleep would be all over me, like white on rice.  Over 4 weeks, I’ve had a handful of scattered nights where I have slept well enough, but more often than not, good sleep has evaded me.

For the last 2 weeks, I’ve debated setting an early morning alarm with the hope that I could re-create what I’ve experienced in the past when I have set early morning alarms: a great workout that has set me up for the day; a take-on-the-world attitude; the chance to listen to some of my favourite CBC radio programs (nerd alert); and do some of the things I love best, including baking and some cross-stitch.  It’s another instance where I am desperately holding onto a past event or situation in an attempt to re-create what it brought me the first time around.

I’m a sentimental person at the best of times.  I’m that person who will keep the ticket stub to a great concert.  I’ll hold onto a book that someone gave me, even though I haven’t read it in years.  Since January, I have been on a bit of a purge kick.  It began with getting rid of a pile of books I have been literally carrying around with me from one end of the province to another.  I then moved onto my closet and dropped off a bunch of clothes that hadn’t seen the light of day for some time, at the local Good-Will.  I’ve continued to go through all of my various belongings, from cutlery to knick knacks to ballet shoes I wore when I was 5.

While it might be on a more physical or tangible level, I have been making more space in my life by clearing away the clutter of objects and things that no longer serve me.  I think in so doing I’ve created voids or blank spaces that have yet to be filled with new habits and routines and beliefs.  And ways of being.  This period of nostalgia that I am experiencing, I believe is my gut reaction to filling in the blanks with what is familiar and comfortable.  And with what worked in the past.

It’s an incredibly frustrating process to be going through.  4 weeks ago, I had this picture perfect vision in my head that this period of transition would be flawless and filled with ease.  I would just become a better version of myself.  I am learning though that it is an unbelievably difficult thing to do, and that I trip myself up on a nearly hourly basis.  I fall.  Sometimes face first in the mud with my good intentions and plans.  The one thing that continues to fuel me though, even in my trip-ups, is the growing sense of awareness that I have.  I may be grasping onto old habits, and entertaining the idea of using them again, but I am more actively and acutely aware of what is really behind what I am trying to do.  And about 5 times out of 10 I catch myself and stop, rather than push through and bring back the old.  I am hopeful that I can increase the odds to work in favour of catching myself and stopping more often than pushing through blindly and full of nostalgia.

With Love,

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Olivia Shaw

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