The Five Senses of Nostalgia
Google says nostalgia is ‘a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past’. When something electrifies our five senses, nostalgia ignites. So I think the connotation of nostalgia is fifty-fifty. When it happens, we feel simultaneously happy and sad, caught for brief moments in the past.
But I think most people’s present periods are not as satisfactory as they want them to be. Or, if they are, it is shadowed by the pandemic and social justices we are fighting for. We are three weeks into 2021, and sometimes the exhaustion feels unbearable. Sometimes I can’t sleep because I’m so tired. Nothing is wrong, necessarily, but nothing is right, either.
And what is there to be nostalgic about anyway? I wonder about that. What have I lived and watched been lived that is a beacon of longing? I find a blockage there, and I care to explore it. I think all my senses with nostalgia are shadowed by hardships.
The first two of my five senses to become aflame are the taste and smell of nostalgia. For me, they are takeaway meals as a child. As children, it signalled a little bit of money when my parents got us takeaway. Not the most responsible financial decision, but it was a saving grace to eat takeaway food. It meant that for this brief period, everything is okay.
Eating in a restaurant represents growth to me, and eating takeaway represents control.
So as an adult and more so during the pandemic, I would order takeaway food as a way to have control. If I can still order food, then things are okay. Eating means that I have money, and that means that I will be okay. That is not true, of course. There are thousands of variables that can play and sway my day, my health, my wellbeing.
I have issues with food insecurity, and so the taste and smell of nostalgia are tainted.
Throughout the pandemic, like all of us, I have embraced deep reflection. Willingly, unlike some others that I know. Tower moments ahoy. I’m very sensitive to sound. Loud noises meant bad things as a child, and too quiet meant the explosion was brewing. But I realised a triggering sound—curse words.
I love to swear. Sometimes swearing just makes the whole fucking sentence. Highlights the point with chef kiss sass. I’ve found being sworn at or around swearing people brings me quickly back to a wounded child. That is because curse words were the pathway to the big fight.
I am not quite sure how to handle this trigger, and it is something I will speak to my psychologist about. It is so curious to me because I don’t mind swearing. Honestly, I think it is a stress response to the pandemic and restrictions because they mirror a child’s restrictions with their autonomy.
On the other hand, I love music. I’ve created so many cool playlists inspired by motivation users on the TikTok. The Main Character playlist. My Life is a Movie Playlist. BTS released their album BE. I’ve had the most beautiful conversations with my angel friend. Sound has been a saving grace too.
I know that I have problems with being touched. I admit I’m comfortable with a slight head nod and bow. That’s not because of the pandemic but from childhood. I was never sexually abused – my parents went to extraordinary lengths to protect my siblings and me. But I didn’t receive a lot of physical affection.
I can still remember when an aunt on my dad’s side gripped my arm and bruised me. It was intentional because I was older and never backed down. I knew things that my cousins didn’t, which made me a threat to this particular aunt. That is physical abuse, but I was never long term physically abused.
I think not receiving that physical affection as a child made it a lot harder to accept as a teenager and an adult. There is no problem for me hugging other people. In fact, I’m all for giving hugs to greet and comfort others – mostly women. The issue arises when it is me who needs to receive comfort. It doesn’t often happen because I’m working on the being vulnerable and emotional part.
But it still feels strange to hug my mother and father.
Nostalgia with sight. South Korea came to mind. I think because I was by myself, completely free and not hindered by anything but what I wanted to do. That seems a world away, and I crave it. It was a loneliness that I didn’t mind. My nostalgia with sight is the true reflection of the google definition.
As I have been writing this, maddeningly, all five senses lead to him. Sometimes I can taste and smell him. He asked me once, in the first few months that we had ever met if he had a certain smell to me. I said no because I didn’t understand what he was asking me. Now it appears when it shouldn’t and when it logically is impossible. There is a ghost of his touch under my touch. I see him in the corner of my eye in passing strangers. And when I am alone, lost in my head, I hear his stern voice, and I become present again.
I don’t want to go back to an ignorant society and a society that wouldn’t fight for me. There was an interesting point made about saying we need to heal as a society and as a global collective. The point was that we don’t need to heal, we need to change. I want to contribute to the change and for nostalgia to be sweet instead of painful.
And I am so excited for the next one who will engulf all five senses in the present and every day for the rest of our lives.
Perhaps you might feel a sense of sadness as you read this as I did when I wrote this, but it truly isn’t. I believe that progress with healing can only happen if we feel the pain. If we reflect on it and learn. Nostalgia is a fifty-fifty concept, a longing of a moment in a memory. But that memory taught us something, made us feel something. Nostalgia almost reeks of regret.
Certainly, there are happy moments. But those are foundational memories that I love to relive all the time. Besides, there is a sixth sense. Intuition. That is what holds me together because I know that this is not the final destination. I trust that it isn’t.
This week’s optimism isn’t nostalgia of the past rather, the non-existent nostalgia of the future. I think that what we have all learnt the most is to make every moment count. I plan to with all that I have in me. Let me greet that cliff edge with eagerness.
What’s your nostalgia with your senses?
Tea of the day – T2, Green Rose
Stay safe, be kind, and feel free to reach out below!
With love and eternal optimism,