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"Limping Man Syndrome" - or Sweet Pain of Nostalgia: A Satire

Croatian National Theater, in the capital Zagreb.

Croatian National Theater, in the capital Zagreb.

Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the old good days.

-- Doug Larson

A Limping Dude

Let me start it all with a rather silly joke -- but one that seems to hide a symbolism of something so weird about the human emotions. So here goes the joke, and be ready for its silliness:

A man sees his friend on the street limping, and, concerned, asks what's wrong. The limping dude says: "Nothing's wrong, I just bought myself these tight shoes, so that I can enjoy the relief of taking them off."

You are not laughing, and it's O.K., but that silly philosophy of finding pleasure in pain is more widespread among humans than one would be willing to believe.

While not too many examples may instantly come to mind, just a couple may prime you enough for the rest of the story where that "limping dude syndrome" -- as I will call it -- becomes quite evident.

So think of those weird lovers who find extra pleasure in rough sex; or those abused women who stay in the relationship, while even animals will instinctively run away from the source of their hurt.

It's like on some level of our nature pain has a way of being associated with pleasure.

Now, these are the kind of thoughts that I am having as I am psyching myself up for our planned trip to our native Croatia this coming summer.

And suddenly, that tireless satiric in me is finding something similar to that limping dude in all feelings generated by that trip.

For it's rather humorous how each of those trips never failed to arouse that same mix of happiness and sadness, an emotional cocktail that makes us to do both -- question our reasons for ever deciding to leave, and at the same time finding reasons for why we did it.

St. Mark's church, in Old Zagreb, Croatia, built in the 13th century.

St. Mark's church, in Old Zagreb, Croatia, built in the 13th century.

Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity.

-- Robert Morgan

Almost Like Strangers in Our Town of Birth

As for one detail of it, renewing all that closeness with the family is almost "therapeutic", after more than half century of living in Canada. But on the flip side of it, they are bound to "get on my nerves" -- phrase that should never be taken literally with this long-time meditator and cool dude like myself -- albeit somewhat appropriate.

But yes, after half century of living in Canada, that Croatian mentality can be just as sweet as it is annoying, which makes somewhat awkward blending with our dear ones there.

That dual feeling of belonging-and-not belonging there stretches over those dear places loaded with memories. At each visit there are so many of those breathless moments as we come across yet another location in that city where we almost meet our younger selves.

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But then we get hit by the reality of having no home there, and we are not much different than those tourists around us.

At one instance, while waiting at the streetcar stop, we asked a lady also waiting, which number would take us downtown. We asked in Croatian, and she, somewhat confused, shook her head and said in English that she didn't understand us.

We laughed and asked the same question in English, while telling her how we had been actually born a couple of blocks away -- but now just visited, so we didn't know about the updated streetcar routes.

Well, yes, being strangers in our own native town, and then assisted by another kind of a stranger -- a British tourist.

Statue of King Tomislav, in the capital Zagreb, Croatia

Statue of King Tomislav, in the capital Zagreb, Croatia

Everyone is entitled to his own nostalgia.

-- James Wolcott

Once a European, Always a European -- or It's Only Me

At our last visit in 2019 we rented a place in that very area where we grew up. So we sat on a bench in the park behind our elementary school, speechless for a while and overwhelmed by memories.

While sitting there, we suddenly realized how we used to sit on that very bench and kissed as teenagers. So I put my arm around my wifie's shoulder and kissed her again.

There was still that shallow public swimming pool in that park, now unused, looking like an archaeological artefact, somewhat muddy and with old leaves all around.

Hearing our native language everywhere feels like listening to Chopin's gentle piano nocturnes, reminding us of our European ancestral identity that never really goes away from our bones.

Europe is so filled with history, our own city over a millennium old, so it's not only our own past that we meet in that ambient, but also its own history. So we walk and walk, mixed with tourists, like two lost puppies with hearts swollen with joy, but also with a sort of sadness.

It's like that satirist in me is telling me that joke of the limping man, and asking:

"Did you emigrate so that you can feel this joy of returning?"

And I don't really know what to answer.

The Double-Edged Emotion of Nostalgia -- As Explained in the Video

© 2023 Val Karas

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