Great and Terrible as the Dawn

Memory is a horrible and amazing thing.

The thrill of a chance encounter with someone in your past can leave you vibrating for days, where a song from a few weeks ago can cause cello sounds to echo from your heartstrings. To be able to remember, both so much and so little, is usually the most wonderful thing our brains are able to do, while in small moments can seem the most terrible curse.

I sometimes wonder if I remember less or more than other people. I’ve discussed this with friends, and my general conclusion was that my mind seems especially well-suited to forgetting. I can remember basic structural components of many events, but not the details. Since many events like this are shrouded in bad memories, I wonder if I’ve just learned some mechanism for obliterating the details. Structural memories can be bad enough, sometimes. Remembering that I was there hurts, I don’t need to know why, or what happened next.

At the same time, I wonder if I’ve cut myself off from the richness of life. If my magically devised ‘forgetting switch’ cuts out important things I was meant to learn from the details of my life. It would explain why I keep dating the same men, getting into many of the same life circumstances, and then wondering how I got there. My life has a habit of being habitual, and I wonder if it’s my own ability to fail to learn by failing to remember that causes it.

At the same time, I understand now in a way that I didn’t that structural memories are sufficient to realize when I’ve been a prat, and when that needs to stop. I wouldn’t say I’m jubilant in my life right now, but I’m content. I’m at peace with the unpleasant things I carry from my past, and that exist in the present, grateful for the pleasant things right now, and open to more in the future. That’s about as optimistic as I’m ever going to get, I think, but I’m also totally okay with that.

Until then, I’ll just wander with a bit of whimsey through my iTunes library, unsure when the next flood of detailed memories might be released. It’s both great and terrible, and even if I could, I’m not sure I’d have it any other way.


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