Lately, I’ve been rediscovering lost memories. I’ve been chatting with old friends on Facebook. Looking through old photo albums. Reading old journal entries and blog posts.
I’m not one to reminisce. I’m either in the moment or living for the future. The past is the past. It can’t be changed. And while I have solid childhood memories, I don’t often allow myself the luxury of recalling those favored moments more than once in a great while. This is also because I have a tendency to relive emotions that come with certain memories.
Because of this, I can write amazing character profiles. I associate more than just memories. I associate music and ambiance and flavor and fragrance and sound and texture and feelings. I incorporate entire experiences.
But sometimes, triggers can bring me back to more than I bargained for.
Over ten years ago I was engaged. I shouldn’t have been. But I was a single mom with a young girl. I was lonely, and felt alone. I met a man who showered me with affections. He was not cruel. He was not mean. We just were not a good match. People told us so. We didn’t listen, and after months of dating he proposed. I eventually broke up with him when it was clear we weren’t going to be able to work out some of our more important conflicts. It was the smart thing: to let go. But it was painful. And once again, I felt alone. But more than that: I felt like I deserved to be alone. I’d ignored those who loved me enough to tell me why this wasn’t good. I’d turned my back on the advice of family and friends. I’d asked them to embrace my choice, proclaiming that I knew best.
But I didn’t.
So I deserved to be alone. And hurt.
Or so I thought.
He’d taken me to see the movie “Autumn in New York”. I can’t begin to list the reasons why I love this movie. It’s by no means a classic. It didn’t win any awards. But it had me from the moment the first leaf fell in Central Park to Diana Krall’s “Let’s Fall in Love”. I had the CD soundtrack that I annoyed people with day after day after day. It was, for me, the perfect experience.
And then we broke up. And because I had not just memories but experiences associated with Autumn in New York, I could no longer listen to the music. I never wanted to see the movie. I could never think about someday going to New York.
I just couldn’t.
It pulled at me like sticky spaghetti strings. With any real force, the draw would be broken. I was thankful to live here in the desolate desert where I didn’t have to smell crisp autumn winds or see colored leaves. I could pretend the movie never existed. Because to admit that not only did it exist, but that I liked it, was to admit that I wasn’t perfect. That I longed for something I couldn’t, and shouldn’t, have. It was to admit that I’d failed with my family and friends. And that was the most painful loss of all.
This is the thinking pattern I held to for most major disappointments. I could no longer watch this, hear that, go here, eat there. All because it brought back bad memories. And pain. And shame.
Until eight years later. I just made a decision to change my way of thinking. This part puzzles me, because for all my experience-association, the only thing I remember about this moment is feeling empowered. I’d decided several things in that moment.
I’d decided I wasn’t going to hold on to bad memories. I would recognize them, but no longer let them hold me hostage.
I’d decided I was going to allow myself to remember without experiencing every moment.
I’d decided I wasn’t going to let the memory of a long-ago man dictate how I continued my life without him.
I’d decided it was time to stop avoiding old memories, and instead replace them with new ones.
I’d decided to order the DVD from Amazon.
The next four days were filled with a new excitement for me. It was almost a combination of meeting an old friend and going on a first date. I was finally allowing myself to be me. And to be happy about it.
When the DVD arrived, I wasn’t disappointed. I worried that I’d built it up in my head to be a wonderful theatrical production. It wasn’t. But I already knew that. It was just what I remembered it to be. And it felt good to remember.
Since that moment, I no longer run from my memories. I change them. I don’t let them haunt me and keep me subdued. I make new memories. This is still my town. This is where I live. Work. Love. And have family and the same friends.
I refuse to let an old memory take that from me.
The movie is no longer associated with that man. It’s associated with my love for New York. The restaurant we used to frequent is no longer associated with him. It’s associated with friends and great conversations and possibilities.
Life isn’t something to keep running away from or locked in a closet. It’s something to be treasured, exhibited, and put on display.
Life is something to be proud of. The weaknesses that let others be strong for us. Even the parts that make us stronger for ourselves.
And Frankly, My Dear… that’s all she wrote!