Longing is the absent chatting with the absent. The distant turning towards the distant. Longing is the spring’s thirst for the jar-carrying women and vice versa. Longing allows distance to recede, as if looking forward, although it may be called hope, were an adventure and a poetic notion. The present tense is hesitant and perplexed, the past tense hangs from a Cypress tree standing on its rooted leg behind a hill, enveloped in its dark green, listening intently to one sound only : the sound of the wind. Longing is the sound of the wind.
—Mahmoud Darwish, from “XIV”, In the Presence of Absence. Archipelago, 2011
At the sound of the bell ringing my mom would run anxiously excited to fix the house before the guests come in. I never understood this obsession to conceal your life or conceal your living when other people arrive. As if they find something out of place, they will notice and judge you for it. People perceive that if you invite them over and you have a messy house you kind of do not respect them. I don't think like this. I think that you do not respect them if you hide your life and make it look all tidy and nice - because it really isn't. You are lying to your guests and you are presenting an illusion - an illusion of comfort. Cleaning up your house before people arrive is the equivalent of small talk. I am not advocating for total mess and chaos. Just authentic human mess that is created when an organism is alive and thinking and LIVING inside a room. Living is never CLEAN, I mean yes, basic hygiene and an aesthetic comfort should be there for mental health reasons, but do things have to be PERFECT? No.
If you ask me, I love seeing the process of living when I enter other people's apartments. I see their mess, books, water bottle, drinked coffee, a jumper near by in case it gets cold and I fall in love with this. I see them as raw and as true as they are inside this room, without my presence ruining the natural flow of energy. So, when guests arrive I am not compelled to clean the house and hide what I have been doing. I want to leave the books open as they were before the news of their arrival would disrupt my current flow, I want them to see what it is like to be me and who I truly am. In fact I would not even open the door. By some weird mechanism the guests would come in on their own and find me as I am. In front of a book or laptop or watching something. My posture would say: welcome to me; this is me.
Is memory considered a portal to someplace? is it truly the past? or is it a portal to a potential of how life could have been? and we look back to it with nostalgia because at times we want to escape our present moment and dream of another life? So if you think of a dear memory you hold, how often do you go there and how do you feel when you revisit that memory? is it that we go back to just remember or we go back to hold on to those moments that had the potential to unfold our life in a different trajectory?
Memory can also be a portal to a life untouched by the anxieties of the present. It is called rosy retrospection but what is even more rosier about it is that we remember still images: me in a car driving by a beach. Then, this memory will get dressed with additional false memories (or momentary fictions attributed to the past) and I will attach feelings to that image: feeling free, feeling hopeful, feeling hydrated, whatever. So I have the image, but the feeling I just created and the memory in totality is a mixture of the present (or what we want to feel and we are not) and an actual image from the past.
Chronic nostalgia can also explain something. Why some people (myself included) have an automatic tendency to remember and look towards the past? do I want to bring the past to the present? linger to it? hold on to it? not forget about it? but then, why can't I just go forward? accept life as forever unfolding and not looking back? what am I missing?