Tuesday, September 21, 2010

At the Corners of My Mind

Some interesting things have been happening for me in the memory department. Not only am I having memories of Bill, and believe me those are almost hourly, but I am having memories of situations, people, and events that don't include Bill -- many even predate our meeting in 1981. These aren't the random "I remember so-and-so and the time that we went apple picking in Vermont" type of memories. These are full-on memories of moments in which I can "feel" sensations like tropical humidity or a gentle breeze on my skin, "smell" scents like ylang ylang or BBQ, and "hear" music, laughter, and bits of conversation. These have been good memories of old friends and familiar places. Each one has left me with a smile.

Bill used to bring up memories of times and things I had said that I had little or no memory of. The same thing happens when my sister and I get together. We will talk about the same event and our perceptions are totally different. For one of us it might be a non-event; and for the other a life-changing moment. The thing that always frustrates me about these conversations about the past is that frequently I will be reminded of something I said or wrote that the receiver connected with, and I will have no memory of saying or writing any such thing. It always sounds pretty good to me; I guess it's that pride of authorship thing. Sometimes it even sounds like something I would say: because it contains some of my "signature" words and phrases or because it is something I say a lot and had only recently become conscious of.

I shouldn't have any trouble remembering what I've written. I always re-read everything several times...make that dozens of times. As a former communicative skills instructor, I am obsessive about spelling and punctuation (and always up for a heated debate on comma use and placement). And like anyone who fancies themselves a writer, I love playing with the words. Stroking them, so to speak, until I get the phraseology that has the right rhythm when I hear it in my head.  Frankly, there are times when that rhythm is going, the writing just takes over, and I am surprised at the end by some insight into myself or my relationship with the Universe that I have discovered in it. A lot of these kinds of things end up in my Moleskine journal and are not shared very widely.

I wish I could say that these were very deep things that I come up with. That would make me at least wise. Mostly, as of late, these have been brutally honest reckonings with who I have been. When I say "reckonings," I am not implying judgment. The brutality is in memories of angry words or destructive actions or clumsy choices. My evolving rules of self-discovery demand that I suspend judgment of the person I was even five minutes ago, but observe that person and the environment and the choices that took place and the consequences of those choices. In this way, I can have compassion for the person that was and is.

At the end of it, "Did you learn anything?" That's the question my father would ask us when we would come to him and confess some misdeed or poor choice that had resulted in appropriate consequences, since that's the way the Universe works. If we came to them, he and Mom would always have our backs when we dealt with consequences, but they didn't let us avoid them (It made their jobs a lot easier, I am sure!). However, just to be sure we wouldn't have to repeat the error, Dad would ask us if we learned anything.

These were not always easy conversations, and I am certainly not trying to suggest that I never had to repeat any lessons. I'm an Aries, and as hard-headed as any ram. There were some lessons I did over and over and over until I either figured out that I wasn't moving forward anymore or realized that "this hurts and I don't have to do it anymore." I guess the key sign that I am on the aging side of the equation is that I ask myself that question (Did you learn anything?) less often, and when I do ask it I try to be pretty clear with myself that I don't have enormous amounts of time to be repeating lessons!

And now, I am off to the airport to pick up my sisty-ugler and my favorite Bob-in-law!

1 comment:

Pete Pedersen said...

Your discussion of the points of view on certain events being radically different made me chuckle. I have plotted a series of fictional tales about a family and the epilogue of one book is the prologue of one or more following books. The setting is always an annual family reunion and it's amazing how events can look, and play out, from different points of view.