We all have them. Some are good. Some are bad. Some we wish we could forget. Others we’d give just about anything to remember.
In my case, the memories that seem to have been cemented in my mind, are those that I wouldn’t necessarily want to forget, because they have formed parts of me. But I’d trade them in a heartbeat if I could get my childhood ones back. My memories begin the night my dad had a massive heart attack when I was 10 years old.
The only thing I can figure is that because that was such a traumatic night – followed by 10 years of daddy being sick – I have somehow developed reverse post-traumatic stress disorder, and blocked the good stuff. I always have been one to do things my own way.
Is it that when something ends badly, that negates, in our minds, all the good that happened prior to the bad event?
Bad memories are like scar tissue in the mind. If you leave them alone long enough, they will heal. Given the right medicine – patience, time, forgiveness – they will, not go away, but will sink down. The perfect storm might cause a small flare up, a dull ache. But, for the most part, they remain buried.
But if you pick at them, fuss over them, the healing process never happens. And you’re left with a nasty scar, that is subject to infection. Every time you pick at it, the resulting scar is thicker and thicker – layer after layer of scar tissue building up until the memory is almost unrecognizable from how it began.
Over the years, I’ve gotten to know my mother’s childhood through stories. And because we are so close, those stories are burned into my heart. Feelings of abandonment and anger. Broken trust and broken hearts. I’ve heard these stories time and time again, and they have never gotten easier to accept. This beautiful soul opening up to me over a cup of instant coffee, pouring out all that has brewed inside of her for so long. Releasing the stories to me was never cathartic for her, and watching her talk was just like watching that little girl inside of her fighting to be heard by someone. So I listen. And listen again.
I’ve always told her – and it’s easy for me to say because they aren’t my memories – to let it go. To move forward. But her scars are way too deep, and thickened by a lifetime of picking.
Many of these memories have removed her from her family for years. Not wanting to face her past, she pushed it away time and time again. Her stories settled into me and removed me her family as well. I have an entire family on her side that I have never really known. I never gave that much thought, until today.
My mom’s sister, my Aunt Colleen, came into town for a visit today. It’s been ten years since my mother has seen her, and thirty years since I have seen her. Recently, they rekindled their bond as sisters. Stories were shared, memories revisited, truths revealed.
Some of the memories, thickened by time, were not a perfect representation of actual events. Many memories were simply those based on the perspective of a little girl lost in the shuffle – moved from one family member to another, for reasons that, in her mind, always came from a place of rejection and lack of love.
It’s hard to imagine that there are several perspectives on a story, when that story happened to you. What you saw, what you felt, what you heard, oftentimes isn’t what the other person saw, felt and heard. Sometimes motives become misunderstood, and, often skewed based on past feelings and experiences.
All memories deserve a place in our minds because they are the glue that holds us together and connects us to our tribes – those we love and those we have issues with. But we have to know when to file them away and lock the drawer. Otherwise we become estranged from our tribe – even the ones that we love. And when that happens, although we think it’s helping us to feel in control and put together, it does nothing but tear us apart inside and out.