The human memory is a fascinating thing. At times it helps you recall a past moment so vividly — down to a smell, a touch or the tiniest detail.
At other times it’s more selective and hazy than 3-dimensional. It waters down the image of that past occurrence so much it seems unreal or unremarkable. Paled into insignificance.
You know what I’m talking about. We can’t recall where we left our keys or where we parked our car but we somehow remember every aspect of a first kiss or seeing Purple Rain at the old Bohm movie theatre with our college flat-mate. We don’t remember when our spouse tells us they have plans and thus inconveniently double-book our lives, but we remember a fall out with a friend during grade school. We forget where we left our phone — our lifeline of critical “stuff”– but our mind can replay a casual conversation with a friend over drinks at a favorite local bar word for word. The near slip and fall on wet rocks takes on a hazy, dream like shade but the sound of the waterfall when we reach the top is crystal clear in our mind.
Perhaps the placement of our keys or logging in our spouse’s schedule is less significant to our own personal agenda than the memory of the view from the top of Bridal Veil Falls. Or perhaps our “Mind Palace” is truly a filing cabinet that sorts our memories by importance or relevance, measuring those of highest significance or emotional value. Perhaps it engages a logical and very personalized measuring system to determine what deserves preserving and what should go to the Trash Bin.
That said, perhaps the evaluation software in our Mind Palace also knows how to soften the poignancy of difficult or painful moments as well, blurring them like a frame of Cybil Shepherd in the 1980’s hit Moonlighting.
Take Labor. Giving birth to my daughter was one of the most significant, joyful moments in my life. There is much I remember with crystal clear clarity. But there are fuzzy moments too.
See, I don’t remember the Pain. I know there was Pain. I recall that I said I was in Pain and I didn’t know whether I could do what needed to be done. But if you asked me to rate that pain on a scale of 1 – 10, I can’t remember anything specific. I can’t describe it like I can describe a kiss or a touch or the taste of am amazing yellow snapper melting in my mouth.
We all experience Drama in our Lives. Bad Stuff. Pain. Unkindness. Loss. Devastating moments that rock us to the core. We go into Dark Places and we wonder if we will ever see the Light again.
But, in the midst of that Struggle, we have to keep Moving Forward, simply putting one foot in front of the other as we work through “stuff.” We can’t stay in the fetal position forever. To preserve our sanity, we keep on doing daily tasks. And amidst that, we smile at a joke or story — even in the throws of the Darkest of Days there are still joys. And the Pain and Intensity become less intense with time.
Perhaps the human memory is a sentient aspect of our psyche. It knows how to protect us. We walk down the dark alley and it sucks. But when we reach the other side, the shadows that stalked us seem somehow blurrier … less potent … less destructive. The memory of the Labor Pains fades. We know we had them. But we can’t remember how bad it got.
Instead of remembering the “discomfort” I felt during her birth, I recall how amazing I felt having done what I did. Instead of stressing over a near slippage on a rock, I remember the absolute high I felt when I reached the top of Bridal View Falls with my son. Instead of the loss of a friend, I recall all the good times we had.
Our Mind Palace eases the memory of the Labor Pains — which explains why women actually have more than one kid! It leaves us instead with a feeling of accomplishment when we’ve made it through the rain or the darkness. And it allows us to vividly recall walks in the park, kisses in the rain, a view of the moon on the water, simple conversations over drinks and laughter among special friends who truly connected. The movie on our own personal small-screen DVR is gentle to our spirit.
We walk through a glass, darkly, emerging on the other side changed. Once there, we glance backward into the looking glass, recalling the Drama and Difficulties but our Mind Palace blurs the edges on Shadows. Time and distance have a way of diluting and allowing us to disconnect the memory of pain … even Labor Pains.