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Memories Are Made of This

memories-thinking-about-past-remembering

If touch is my drug, then memories are my kryptonite.

I am an overthinker. I have always been an overthinker. As a child, I remember adults telling me, “Don’t think so much!” and wondering how they could ask that of me. I could no more control my thoughts than the weather. They rushed over me in a continuous wave of questions and hypotheticals.

Over the years I learned to stem the tide of thoughts when they got too much for me. I learned to put them away. Today, my mind is a hoarder’s attic, stuffed to the brim with ominously unstable stacks of thoughts and emotions and worries and passions and dreams and experiences and fears and imagination and memories.

I don’t know what other people do with their memories. My brother has somehow managed to purge all of his childhood memories … or lose them. I’m not sure which. My own seem to be (much like my real life belongings) stored in a state of organised chaos. I revisit them often. I turn memories over and over in my mind until the jagged feelings that used to jut from them are worn away, leaving the recollection itself smooth as a pebble. Easy to handle. Almost comforting.

Sometimes I forget memories only to find them years later, untouched, unexamined. When this happens, I’m always surprised to find the feelings that came with them are still there, unblunted, in the corner of my mind. I prick my fingers on the sharp points, and the unexpected sting of it startles me. My mind makes an immediate jump to hyperspace and I start overthinking again.

  • How did I forget this?
  • Is it even real?
  • Do the other people in the memory remember this?
  • Is it important?
  • Why do I only remember this now?
  • How many times have I examined this memory?
  • How many more times will I examine it before the feelings disappear?

Then I worry that when I’m finished turning it over and over, it will become another pebble: a skimmed pebble. It will bounce twice or three times on the surface of my consciousness and then sink to the depths. I’ll forget it for good.

Something about this, something about memories, makes me profoundly sad. It’s not nostalgia. At least I don’t think it is. Merriam-Webster defines nostalgia as:

“a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of

some past period or irrecoverable condition.”

I don’t long to go back. I don’t wish for a time-machine. It’s not the moment in the past I feel a strange yearning for, it’s the memory itself. I worry about my memories getting lost forever. I worry that I am altering them all the time until I can no longer trust which ones are true. I worry that I’ll smooth away all the edges and be left with flat, polished versions of every memory I’ve ever had. Easier to manage, yes, but also smaller. Diminished. Sanitised. Sterilised. Incapable of making me laugh or cry.

A forgotten memory found its way into my mind yesterday. It caught me so completely by surprise that a tear escaped and made a run for it down my cheek before I even had a chance to realise what I was thinking of. The instant rush of thoughts and feelings gave me a sentimental papercut. I sat, listening to music, pressing against the sharp ends the same way you use your tongue to press against a loose tooth. It hurt, but I didn’t stop. I couldn’t help it. The pain pleased me.

I examined the memory from every angle. I wondered if there was more to it that I had forgotten. I wondered who else remembered it. If they do, does it come tied to an emotion, or has time buffed away any inconvenient feelings?

If I am the only one who has kept it, does that make it more precious, or less?

21 thoughts on “Memories Are Made of This

  1. “I turn memories over and over in my mind until the jagged feelings that used to jut from them are worn away, leaving the recollection itself smooth as a pebble. Easy to handle. Almost comforting.”

    Girl… you are so expressive in your writing, to the point, I find myself at ease just reading your posts, and for that, I thank you. Well done!

    1. Thanks Bex. Been having an unusually introspective week, I think it’s getting me down. Need to get out of my head!

  2. I struggle so much with my memories. I wish I could organise and prioritise them in my head because everything just seems so jumbled. A lot of my childhood memories are badly faded, the ones I do have are only what my sisters have told me and therefore are really their memories, others are ones I have imagined by trying to put a story to a still photo.

    I have vivid memories about things I don’t really want to remember, about people who I know no longer give me a thought and I get angry when they squeeze their way into my head.

    Another beautiful post xo

    1. Thanks. “I have vivid memories about things I don’t really want to remember” <- This is something that hapens to everyone I think. Damn intrusive thoughts! Also, adopting other people’s stories as your own memories is another thing that happens quite often I think… I find it so odd. Do you think you attach your own feelings to them or adopt theirs?

      1. I’m not sure if we take their feelings our own, do we also add our own current feelings when we think back?
        Will we ever know how the mind works?!

  3. “…it will become another pebble: a skimmed pebble. It will bounce twice or three times on the surface of my consciousness and then sink to the depths. I’ll forget it for good.”
    The way you write!!

  4. Though the others have already said it, it bears repeating. Your writing is highly evocative. Your words and sentences have a texture. You’re the oil painting when most of us are working on flat surfaces.
    Well done.

    1. Thanks Anthony, I think some of my posts just sort of … pour out of me. More of a necessity for me than a post for post’s sake. This was one of them. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      1. I definitely enjoyed it. Some people throw words onto a page like rage filled graffiti (which can be good sometimes) while others, like yourself, try to construct a more cohesive picture. In the short time I have been reading your blog, I have witnessed your development as a writer–that’s pretty exciting.

  5. I must agree with the others, your languaging in this is superb – a sentimental papercut – so aptly descriptive. It sounds like those memories keep resurfacing because the next layer of healing is ready to be dealt with. That would be my take on it. Things that cause us pain, in whatever form, leave an inner ‘bruise’ or cellular memory. Some of them go deep. They need to be nurtured and gentled as they emerge into the daylight of remembrance to be released with love and forgiveness – layer by layer 🙂

  6. I think there is a measurable connection between writers and rememberers. But i find as I write them down, they are no longer memories. They become something different.

  7. What an amazing, weird gift you have Quinn! Almost like a photographic memory, but with all the vivid emotions still fresh as if it happened yesterday. Hmmmmm. I have a dear friend that is a remarkable empath — she feels the emotional energy of others, even from long, long distances. I wonder if your gift is some version of that?

    I wouldn’t be anxious about this gift. Use it for good, for the welfare of yourself and others! 🙂 <3

  8. Such a beautiful post, I’m so glad I discovered your blog. I definitely think if you’re the only person who remembers something then it makes it more special, but also given that everyone remembers things differently it means that all memories are special.

    I just love how a song, or a smell, or a voice, can spiral me into a whole raft of memories which bring up all sorts of emotions and then fade away again, like a tide.

    Ally
    http://www.longtallally.com

  9. Oh wow. I love how you express how I feel.

    I avoid my memories, to avoid that same emotional papercut.

    But you know, that sadness you describe might also be joy? Could it be?

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