Longing for Days Gone by

Sometimes, all we want is for time to do the unheard-of and move backwards. Sometimes all we want is for what was to come back.

Yet time moves forward, and as it marches on, it leaves behind a trail of outgrown friendships, forgotten favorite spots, morphed relationships and disappointed dreams. True, some of us look back at the past and are happy that we have escaped. But for many others, the past is something we view through “rosy spectacles,” as the saying goes.

I have moved several times. I’m blessed to be able to return to some of the places I used to live. Yet when I return, everything is different. My joy is quickly mixed with confusion and even sorrow, as I encounter reminders that things “aren’t what they used to be.” My friends have moved on in life. They have changed, understandably. And inevitably, I have to come back to my current home, which means my friends and I have to say goodbye. Time has taken people away from me.

Time doesn’t just change other people, it changes us. It changes our ability to achieve what we thought was possible. It can disillusion us. It can steal our health, our wealth, and (though this one is quite obvious), our years.

At the end of the day, what does the ravage of time really mean in our daily lives, in a flesh and blood example? It means I can never go back to the days when I was young and all of my friends lived in the same town where I lived. I didn’t know what death was. I barely knew what pain was. I woke up every morning with all of my family in the same house, and I never worried about whether or not my parents, my siblings and I would be “okay”. The world was peaceful and I was blissfully sheltered. But time has taken many of those things away. I know what pain is (I live with it every day). I worry about my family and whether or not they’ll always have “enough”. My friends have moved (as I have). Even when I moved back to my childhood home, I soon realized that moving back doesn’t mean that the effects of time get to be erased. That sheltered life is gone forever. That fact doesn’t sit well with me.

Yes, if I were to put it into a childlike sentence – even demand – this is what I would say, mincing no words, “I want my past back.” Would you say that too? And yet…and yet is that something we really want? Do we really want to end up living in the past again? Are there any things we have in the present that we would miss? I know that when I was younger I spent all that time wanting to be at the point of life where I am now. If I literally went back to being my younger self, would I not be trading one form of discontentment for another form of discontentment? These questions make me think of the old proverb, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Do these questions sound reasonable? Do you think that perhaps the proverb is true, and that if we could really go back in time we would turn out to not be as happy as in the moment it feels like we would be?

Perhaps you push such logic aside as paltry, as I know that in many instances I would be inclined to do. In various seasons my response would have persisted in being, “I don’t care about fences and green grass; my past was the best part of my life, and everything I have now stinks in comparison. I’m throbbing with hurt, and this is just not how life is meant to be. Give me my past back, if there’s any way possible.” (And yes, I know that unless someone invents time traveling, the idea of literally traveling back to the past is hypothetical.)

If you feel this way, I must pull on the deepest resources I have ever found in order to offer you something helpful. When I realized I was likely going to spend the rest of my life in physical pain, unable to pursue a potential career that I adored, I felt like all the good times of my life had ended. I spent a lot of time trying to understand how anyone could keep on living when the best part of their life appeared to be over. Eventually I saw the twinkling of an answer shining like the glimmer of a night-light up ahead.

Let me tell you about the simple hope of “something more” that this light disclosed to me. At the end of my life, I firmly believe I will get to go to a place called heaven. It is a perfect place, where I won’t have any pain; there will be no disabilities and no regrets. I will get to behold the very face of the God who loves me. I look forward to it so much! The thought of heaven gives me hope as I go on living in a life that, it is true, might get better (who knows what medical treatments may be invented, or what other surprises may occur). Yet if my life remains hard, heaven still gives me the same hope. I can still be comforted by that hope even if this present life never becomes as good as my past was.

There’s plenty more that could be said on this topic concerning how to handle losing the past (maybe another post will have to round this one off sometime). However, for the moment please do refer to the about section to see more on the topic of heaven, if you so desire. And please do not give in to the despair that I know is hard to face when we are coping with sadness.

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6 thoughts on “Longing for Days Gone by

  1. I know how you feel about the past and going to places where you used to live and how it doesn’t feel the same anymore. I experienced that when I went back to my home city for the first time and saw my cousins and I had realised that time keeps moving whether we like it or not. They had grown up, and so had I. No more eating breakfast in our grandma’s bed together, no more going to the swimming pool and mucking around. It was weird.
    Now I have accepted the fact that people change and time keeps moving, it doesn’t bother me to keep going back and visiting my relatives. In my current home town, I used to go to a youth group a few years ago, where I met a few friends and it was great. But there was a time where I stopped going because things got a bit hectic. I tried to go back, but when I did it didn’t feel the same, everything had changed and I felt like it wasn’t right so I stopped going for good because I felt empty, like there was no purpose for me to keep going back. Eventually my one friend who still goes to this day, stopped trying to get me to go.
    Yes it would be nice to re-visit and experience the past again, but that would also mean going through the pain experienced in the past as well. I have great memories from my past, but I also have some pretty bad ones. But without the bad ones, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

    Sorry this comment was really long, but I hope you enjoyed reading it! Haha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, thanks for sharing your own experience and your thoughts! It’s very true; moving into a new phase means we leave behind various pains, and can simply adjust to things being different. I find missing the past is hardest for me in relation to my cases of most significant loss (disability, etc.) but I believe even that can be accepted as we grieve and accept that our suffering has a purpose (and I have thankfully slowly come to accept that God does have a purpose even for my disability).
      Thanks for sharing the example about your cousins especially. It really reminded me of some of my experiences. I’m glad you have such peace about ‘moving forward’ in life 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve found it helpful (mostly) to give myself permission to look back and grieve at certain points. I look back on my Dad’s birthday, remembering and mourning him. I look back sadly every first day of school, as I miss teaching. I complain and sometimes cry on Halloween (my favorite classroom and Mommy holiday). Then I really force myself to turn to the front and take that next step toward the future.
    Wishing you healing!

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    1. I see a lot of wisdom in that idea of allowing ‘looking back’ moments. For example, I lost playing the piano, so any time I end up needing to go to some sort of performance or friend’s recital, that’s a good time to allow myself to feel my own regret (preferably not during the recital  ). However, feeling that all the time would be debilitating. I think that can be part of where a struggle with suicide can come in.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and advice!

      Like

  3. What a touching post. Even in this life, I look for hope. Sometimes it is the only thing that keeps me going. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. And I do believe that God has a purpose for each of us.

    Liked by 1 person

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