Nov 19 • 2M

When Nostalgia Causes Us Grief

How to not let our happiest moments become wounds

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Andrea Gibson
It's common to look around and take inventory of what sucks. This is one poet's quest to uncover what doesn't, and what shifts when we shift our attention.
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Hello Kind People, 

Thank you so very much for choosing to be a paid subscriber. Y’all are wonderful and I’m so grateful that you are here.

Today I drove by Chautauqua Auditorium where I had my one big poetry performance after the cancer had gone away but before it returned and canceled my national tour. It’s one of the most beautiful venues in the world, nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. This past June, 1600 people watched me sprint on stage, jumping up and down, a smile stretched across my face like the longest of lifelines. You can watch a video of that moment and my first poem of the show below. It feels vulnerable to share as I still can’t tune into it without crying every kind of tear––happy tears, sad tears, grateful tears, longing tears, wowed tears.

Just a few days after that show, a blood test told me I might be having a recurrence. It took a month for the recurrence to be officially confirmed. As soon as I heard from the doctor, recalling the happiness of my night on stage suddenly caused me grief. Not wanting the party of that night to be a wound, I actively worked with my feelings. The process looked like this: whenever the grief showed up, I didn’t push it away. I welcomed it. I threw my whole vulnerable chest open to the pain. Said, bring it on. At first, it felt much like opening my front door and inviting a tiger inside. My sadness had teeth. Sharp ones that felt like they might never let me go. But the less I resisted, the more my sadness lost its bite. As I kept saying yes, I eventually reached a moment where my pain took a quick turn and boomeranged back as peace, delight, thankfulness for that beautiful moment in my life. Whenever the grief resurfaces, I return to this process.

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