In 2016, following my son’s bar mitzvah, I penned a piece, “Wishful vs. Wistful.” It was a cathartic expression of my boundless pride coupled with a deep sense of grief at the conclusion of such a momentous event and rite of passage. Now, five years later, Marc and I are getting ready to send our boy off to college.
Raising my “baby” over the past 18 years has brought immense joy. Sure, there have been difficult, challenging moments, but I have nothing to complain about – we hit the proverbial jackpot when it comes to having a remarkable child. But, now, POOF! Where did the time go? Gone in a flash. As you might imagine, that same mixed sense of pride and grief are toying with my emotions once again. Time to recall those two interlocked concepts of wishful and wistful.
I remember, following Ian’s bar mitzvah, when I described to my friend, Andrea, how I was feeling, her eyes brightened and she said to me, “my kids and I just read a story yesterday describing the difference between ‘wishful’ and ‘wistful.’ You have to read it. It will help you to feel better.” A few hours later, I had the name of the book and scanned copies of the critical pages in my email inbox. So, with appreciation to Andrea and to Mary Casanova, author of the children’s book, American Girl Today: Grace Makes It Great, I share with you the definitions of “wishful” and “wistful” and how they can both factor favorably in our lives. The book says,
“The only thing separating wishful and wistful is a single letter. Wishful means feeling hopeful for something and looking to the future. Wistful is feeling sadness about something and longing for the past.” (pages 54-55)
Clearly, both emotions are valuable. To be wishful means we have dreams and hopes for what is to come. Through our actions and interactions, we can bring those ideas to fruition. When we are wistful, we often long for what has already taken place… usually, our memories of those particular times gone by are fond and help us to recall good, happy, wonderful experiences. The great thing is that, though we feel wistful, we can be wishful for other good things to come. In our minds and through our efforts, we can create a virtuous cycle and go from experience to experience, remembering our past and looking forward to our future.
This is exactly what I’m doing now… as wishful as I was for Ian’s childhood years, I must remember, they did not disappoint! The time was jam-packed with incredible experiences that I will hold onto forever. And, though, I am more than a little wistful about the fact that he seems to have grown up before my very eyes, memories of the last many years are emblazoned in my head and on my heart. Now, I am again wishful for Ian’s future as he heads off to college… so excited to see what his journey holds!
As my friend, David, suggested, “though you are feeling a little sad now, just wait… you won’t believe how Ian will blossom over the next few years. You won’t be feeling sad for long.” Indeed. Here’s to feeling wishful….