Why do I remember?
Alice must have known this feeling, yet I suspect hers to be more of wonder and less of disappointment and lack of understanding. Metres down the hole the most intense moments have already passes and the intricate, more subtle memories show their face.
For the longest time I thought the image of me taking my first steps, at barely 12 months of ageing, to be a result of the marvellous brain, stitching together recollections of overheard conversations from later moments in life with the visual queues from pictures, until I revisited the location so lively available in my mind.
My dearest mother had taken me on a trip to one of the Canary islands and as we strolled over one of the beaches I recited the memory, transcribing the visual image to vivid and full fledges sentences. Given that I was well aware of multiple discrepancies between the scene in my head and the reality in front of my face, imagine my surprise when mum smiled at me and told me I was right on each and every account. Neither were there pictures nor video’s from the afternoon I more-than-imagined.
In the years after that I established that my memory is not perfect. It is good at making mistakes and it is great in misinterpreting facts, but when it does it’s job, it does it all too well. Fascinating as it is, why was I so good at remembering some things, but not all?
Autobiographical memory is a memory system consisting of episodes recollected from an individual’s life, based on a combination of episodic (personal experiences and specific objects, people and events experienced at particular time and place) and semantic (general knowledge and facts about the world) memory.
- Why do you know that?
- It’s like you know every song!
- You always have all these facts…
Do you know that feeling when you smell the perfume equally worn by one whom was part of your life; the stream of images that passes by as you turn around to see if they are there; the sensation you had when they first touched you; the laughter you shared; the pain acquired and inflicted, all in a split second that feels like forever?
Every scent recalls the feeling when first smelled. Every song relives the mood when first heard. Shivers up and down my spine when I taste flavours I experienced during emotional times. It is as present as if it never left.
There are not vague feelings or subtle experiences, no these are explosions of emotions ranging from incredibly great to atrociously bad.
I will get overly excited from a joke well known. I can re-watch a movie and enjoy it as much as the first time. And the replay value of that kiss is not something MasterCard can help you with.
But off course the opposite is true as well.
People will tell you time heals all wounds, that you just need to let it rest, because you will feel differently, but nothing could be less true for me. Seeing that person who hurt you so many years ago asks for the bodily response as if it is happening. Imagine feeling the rage, the hate, the anger, the pain, the sorrow, the sadness, the in-differentness, but mostly the love; surely the love all over again.
I can’t let go.
But I can learn to handle the situations and I do. Every single time I learn more and that is how it should be. I don’t want to let go, I don’t want to forget. I want to remember the pain as much as the gain. The love and the hate.
I want to ask myself if I did the right thing and be able to adequately determine that I did based on my full memories instead of vague feelings.
I have not found an answer to my question, but until I do I will cherish my mind and it’s complexity.