Can you remember what you were doing on this day last year? Or this day 5 years ago? If I had been writing this at the end of the last decade, then the chances are that you would reply in the negative. However, with the emergence of Facebook, we are constantly reminded about our past lives. The On This Day feature means you get regular reminders of what you were doing at a particular moment in the last 10 years or so. For most people this is inevitably a cause for nostalgia, or amusement, and a chance to reconnect with friends or family that you may not have seen for a while. However for me, it has almost universal negative connotations. Each snapshot and memory poses me a plethora of questions. How was I feeling at the time? Where did things go wrong from there? What could I have done differently in my life from that moment in time? Wouldn’t it be great to go back to that moment and have a chance to live my life again? Was I happy in that moment, or was the smile a façade, to mask the inner turmoil and anxiety I was feeling?
The depressive mind, in my experience, has a poor filter system. It filters only negative thoughts or connotations, disregarding or contorting the positives. I’m quite a nostalgic person, although the flights of fancy I may go through into my past are tinged with melancholy and sadness, especially the older I get. A memory might force itself into my mind, say that of a summer’s day, walking down a country path with my dad, eating an ice cream, and looking forward to all of the excitement that the school holidays would bring. This idyllic memory is punctured by a sadness, and a yearning to go back to that time, combined with a frustration and regret for how things have turned out since. These thoughts can trouble me for an indefinite duration, until I feel so despondent I have to try and actively force them from my mind.
The danger of the above is that you are constantly living in the past, rather than the here and now. If I don’t try to live in the moment, then ultimately the James 20 years down the line will not not be able to conjure up any memories from 2016 to be nostalgic about. For the last week I have been desperately trying to be my old self, and I feel I have done what I do best and separate the outside appearance from the inside. Don’t get my wrong, I have had some genuinely happy moments this week, and spending all of my working day with friends is a privilege. However, the energy needed to make sure my outer-self is firing on all cylinders takes an inordinate amount of mental and physical energy out of me, to the extent that when I come away from the hustle and bustle, and can let my guard down, I feel a strong sense of emptiness, detachment and loneliness. When I was younger I was afraid of clowns (and I guess if you put one in front of me now I still would be!). Clowns have painted on smiles, and an outward appearance of happiness, fun and boundless energy. But the painted on smile is a mask, and only once they have taken this off is their true self revealed. Maybe I wasn’t afraid of clowns, but instead was afraid of seeing too much of myself within them.
As I write this I feel back to square one again. The noise has stopped, the people have gone, the lights have been turned out, and the empty feeling is seeping in at the pores. It’s a constant roller coaster, and the worst part is that when the coaster speeds upwards to its highest point, you know that just over the top of that loop is the plummet downwards. You can’t escape the inevitable fall, but I just wish for once that I could reach the top and remain there for a while and observe the view from up high.
I wanted to end with some music, because this medium has the ability to evoke an diverse range of emotions and feelings; from joy, hope and happiness, to despair, sadness and grief. Music is quite possibly the greatest achievement that human kind has been responsible for. This song by Passenger is beautifully poignant. It is a comment on how we live our lives, and how we miss so many opportunities and experiences. It is a song about embracing the moment. Passenger sings:
We should run through the forest
We should swim in the streams
We should laugh, we should cry,
We should love, we should dream
And at the end of the day, who can argue with him?