My memory is a ghost. She flits in, thin and wispy, and flits back out when I try to get a good look at her. I am not sure if this is an inherited trait from my mother or from the years of hard living. Memories come in short clips: a flash from when I caused my brother’s concussion when we were still in single digits; hiking in Baxter State Park during a high school trip; riding a horse for the first time; walking 4 miles home in heels after a night of endless dancing and meeting a boy.
The strongest memories I have are raw with emotions. The images in my mind’s eye come fast and furious and I can’t pin them down. While I may remember how I was feeling, I never truly know what the circumstances were that brought them around.
The past holds no real magic for me. As a budding writer in my teenagehood, this was a tremendous source of pain. A writer needs to write what they know! How could I write what I know when what I knew was only here in the present? I used to look with envy upon the people who had a memory, jealous that they could recall their lives with clarity and truth.
Yet, I’ve come to look upon my lack of memory with joy and fondness. My horrible memory, along with my belief in the Buddhist philosophy of living in the moment and my natural tendency to always look toward the future, has caused me to believe that life is abundantly joyful. It becomes ridiculously easy to let go of feelings of jealousy, scorn, or anger. Grudges are rarely held for longer than a few minutes. Although, this took time to learn from my brother, someone that has an uncanny ability and grace to let bygones be bygones. Coming from an Italian family, where grudges are held for decades—even across generations—this had a bit of a learning curve for me.
My lack of memory is augmented with all the tech I have at my disposal. Notes, images, tweets…whatever I want to remember, there’s probably an app that I’m already using for it. However, this is also one of the things that worries me about documenting ALL THE THINGS. Every Facebook post, tweet, Instagram pic records a slice of our life. If I may be so bold, it isn’t our real life; it’s more of a performance in the moment. Since we record everything, since everything can be retrieved later, how are we going to forget?! Forgetting is a biological phenomenon that gives us the opportunity to forgive, to let go of painful stories, to free up space for new experiences.
Finding a balance is the key in everything, isn’t it? I know it sounds simple and straightforward but, you know, I seem to come around to everything in a roundabout way. I keep experimenting with recording things as they happen or just being present in the moment. I have an addictive personality so I limit my interaction with social media, mostly out of fear of starting down the path of Black Mirror’s “The Entire History of You”. I keep notes mostly in analog form, finding the free form of pen to paper more enjoyable and tactile than typing on a screen.
I’m not someone that looks back that often. Reminiscing isn’t a pastime I partake in. The past is the past and while the experiences of my past inform who I currently am, they aren’t who I am now. Growth is inevitable; our core values may remain the same but doesn’t life and experience shape us into a different being? Isn’t that part of the joy of life: this constant shifting and molding and bending and bowing? What a horrible fate to be limited to only one viewpoint throughout this life!
Given the choice between seeing the past clearly or seeing the future, I’d still choose to stay in the present, happily oblivious to anything other than this moment. I make plans for the future and I look back on the past but my memory is more of a ball-pit of emotion, which I’m okay with.