If memory is unreliable, then we are free to re-invent…

“There was a time when you were not a slave, remember that. You walked alone, full of laughter, you bathed bare-bellied. You say you have lost all recollection of it, remember . . . You say there are no words to describe this time, you say it does not exist. But remember. Make an effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent.” Monique Wittig

Memories are like snapshots taken long ago. Forgotten. A little wilted. Curled at the edges. Some I’ve left for 20 years, maybe 30. It is like I’ve thrown them into an old tin that I now retrieve from the back of the wardrobe. I flick through the pictures and they are confused, in no particular order. I pick up one from Italy and think it was taken in Croatia. The details of the actual (if there ever was one) become blurred: like an old, old photo. Parts of it faded and rendered indistinct. Who was that person I stood next to? What was their name? What did we do together? Some people stand out in technicolour. Mostly those we had a deeper bond with, maybe more time or effort put into a relationship, or they made an impression on us in a different, fleeting way.

I wonder if our heads are not like the tardis time machine in Dr. Who, an old-fashioned small Police box from the outside with an infinite number of rooms encased in it once you enter. Maybe our minds are more like a house with rooms we wonder through form time to time. A space no bigger from the outside as from the inside. Maybe we pull back the curtains to see what lies behind, run our fingers over the back of velvet armchairs as we walk past in an absent-minded feel for those old days. What it felt like. What was the quality of the light? Of the air? The older memories sit in the bones of the furniture. Well worn, well visited. Rubbed with wood polish and spruced up from time to time. They shine a little brighter in our minds. But the newer ones, or ones we haven’t revisited, hover on the sidelines. They float on the lace on the muslin drapes in the window. Some are caught by the wind and shoot off eventually. Pulled back outside the house of memory, they are thrown back into the sky of forgetfulness. Others may be taken by the wind to whisper into someone else’s ears or flash up in front of their eyes.

Experiences and memories are tricky things. Two people can have completely different versions of the same event. We all see it through our own personal lens. Then, with a sprinkling of time, you can forget details or remember things differently again. Time can change how we see a moment from long ago. I often wonder if I sometimes confuse my factual memories with fiction. Sometimes I have been shocked at forgetting something a friend has recalled so strongly. Truth is personal and truth shifts on the sands.

You see, we change our stories all the time, even without knowing it.

This could leave us floating in a sea of uncertainty and fear. How can we know ourselves if the truth is so elusive? However, this is a gift for us in terms of allowing ourselves to rewrite whatever we like. For if this can happen seemingly randomly, without conscious interference from us, then we can engineer this to happen ourselves too. We have permission to, whenever and however we want. Never think you cannot change a story, even if it is just a detail.

Your truth may change over time, it may not. Some parts may change and others remain. But what matters is that it is yours. Own it. Step into it. At every moment recreate if it serves you. Do not apologise for this.

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2 thoughts on “If memory is unreliable, then we are free to re-invent…

  1. lornasmithers July 26, 2015 / 4:42 pm

    I love those snap-shot pics and their evocation of the shifting and sand-like memories you speak of. I’d agree we’re constantly re-writing our story all the time. As the land does its memories too?

    • ninamgeorge July 27, 2015 / 11:21 am

      I’d never thought of that link, yes, something for me to think about, thank you.

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