Thoughts on Memories
This is another Memo from my discussion group. Not super edited and not entirely thought out- more like gut reaction writing
Why I don’t want to talk about memories
Last week Kent asked my discussion group whether or not we had any ghosts. He asked in the context of Beloved; Sethe’s memory given limbs, flesh and voice. I wondered about my past; what images and moments have stuck with me; what memories have I kept to be reminded of my past. I thought of a few key experiences, the ski accident, the surgery, the month spent in Ethiopia, they have all fermented to become powerfully intoxicating. Experiences that have altered and shaped me into the Bekah you now see sitting next to you. But I’m not going to tell you these stories- I have no desire to give them flesh or voice because then, ultimately, they are no longer mine.
In my experience memories are finite, they come in limited supply and every time I bring one to surface I am stripping that memory of its richness and fullness and if I resurface it enough times it becomes nothing more than a vague blurred recording of indistinct colors and sounds. I keep memories to myself not because they are painful but because they are beautiful, they created me and if I let them go will I wonder if I will disappear as well.
I’m flying to Vancouver tomorrow, leaving the OE for the first time in months to reenter an old chapter of my life. I know I will be asked to explain my experience of Oregon- do I like the people, are classes difficult, do I really have no internet and while I know these questions are asked with genuine interest and concern, I don’t want to answer them. It’s selfish but I don’t want to give up my memories of this place; John’s drawings, Shane’s narcolepsy, or Barrett’s laugh. I know that this semester is one of those key experiences that is shaping me even as I sit reading this. I’m afraid that if I look the experience in the eye, if I explain OE life to the outside world, the shaping will stop and I will be left with an unfulfilled memory of these months and you wonderful, beautiful people.
Okay. I know I can’t lock my memories inside my brain. I can’t shove them into a darkened corner in hopes of keeping them safe because even if I never speak them away, they will diminish, become sickly and pale in that dark corner, lose their richness, lose the very vivacity that I love- the very reason I want to keep them alive. I know that as a human being if I don’t share my past, if I never open my mouth and explain to you about the time I skied blind, ran into a snow-maker and lacerated my liver I lose some of the vivacity that makes me me.
I’m sorry that this memo has been circular in its logic and I know you are probably checking your watch, wondering when I am going to stop blabbing and get the point. Don’t worry, I’m on the last paragraph. Here is the point- I’m terrified of losing my past, of forgetting the steps that have led me here. I’m scared of forgetting past people, past laughter, past epiphanies. Memory is like sugar water cupped in my hands, slowly leaking out, slipping through the cracks, leaving only small sweet tasting nuggets of my past behind. I’m learning that I have to trust those around me to cup their hands beneath mine, catch some of my memories- help me keep them alive. When I refuse to share my past I am refusing to trust that anyone else can love my past enough to hold it in their hands. When I don’t trust, I put myself in a dark corner and become sickly and pale. I lose the vivacity that makes me me. It may have taken 21 years but I’m finally realizing that that is not a risk worth taking.