Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sticky Cobwebby Memories

Memories are a powerful thing. So easily evoked, so much harder to shove back in the shoebox and under the bed. Especially complicated memories. Memories that are wholly good are welcomed gladly. Come in, stay awhile, let me reminisce, chuckle to myself, or even better share a belly laugh with a friend. Memories that are wholly bad are quickly banished from thought and stripped of their power to summon my emotions to react.

But those messy complicated memories are another story. Half good, half painful, they flare up at the most inconvenient and unexpected times. I'll be going on my merry way in life, enjoying the sunshine, smelling the roses and suddenly something happens which transports me faster than the Delorean back into my past. A scent, a song, a photo, a phrase, and I'm somewhere in the chronicles of my past. I suspect that even my facial expression changes, that I get a bit glassy eyed as if hypnotized by something, which is partly true. I shake it off, sometimes literally, like trying to shake sticky cobwebs out of my hair, but the feeling of the memory lingers. Like a sticky cobweb, it feels all day as if it's still in there.

Perhaps this is why movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind seem appealing, until we discover what we would be without our memories. I may wish to shed my old memories, the unsettling, confusing ones but with that I would shed entire years of my life.

Historians can't find whole years of Shakespeare's life. There's census records and other official documentation that tells us where he was for most of his life apparently, but here and there large chunks are missing. Not a year here or there, but several years in a row he goes undocumented, unable to be found. No one knows where he was or what he was doing. That's how it would be for me if I were able to erase those memories. Two, three, four whole years, or more, would be gone. Two years worth of stories, both good and bad, I can no longer tell. Two years worth of faces I would no longer know, songs I would no longer recognize, moments I could no longer cherish.

My memories are messy because I am a real person with a real story to tell. Life got complicated, I got  complicated, and the aftermath of that is complicated memories. As convenient as it would be to never feel suddenly back in 2003, drowning in old memories, I think, no, I know that I would lose something of myself without those memories. Those years shaped me, perhaps more than any other. From 17 to 22 I grew up, changed, made choices, made memories that have defined the woman I am today. For the better or for the worse, I don't know. If forced to choose I would say better. More complicated, more difficult (especially for my husband who never got to know the carefree me) but better. Wiser, stronger, smarter, more humble, more sure of and realistic about the woman I hope to someday be.

My memories are mine, to keep, to throw away, to share, to hide. One of the most true lines from a movie is from Titanic when Old Rose tells her captive listeners, "a woman's heart is a deep ocean of secrets." What she means are memories. Complicated ones that arise at the strangest moments. But I'm grateful for mine, they serve to remind me of who I used to be, who I am now, and who I want to be. And it has been my memories, those sticky cobwebby memories, that have given me a reason to write. To write my novel, write poetry, write this blog. Writing makes sense of the complicated, keeps the painful ones at bay, and invites the good ones to come in and stay awhile.

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