For as long as I could remember, memories would unpack themselves every night when I went to bed – half fact, half fiction. My child self was skilled at creating reels of how moments may have played out given the circumstances surrounding their occurence. I spoke of people I had never met, places I shouldn’t have remembered at the time, and largely of my mother and her life as it might have been. There is something about memory. Does it stay with the experienced or is it passed along discretely, mostly from woman to the next, in the shade of lofty trees and the intimacy of cooking alongside one another? Memory has mostly transcended the boundaries of time in my life. It has, however, respectfully filled the container of space till it was brimming with a knowing akin to intuition – clairvoyance, even.
With time, recollection is streamlined. This is the truth. The pathways of the mind shorten the distance between trial and error and wisps of inexplicable, deeply held truths are born out of the process. To learn from the experiences of others requires an emotional depth so profound that one could imagine the life of another in order to then enter it. They would then synthesize the memories of others into bits of understanding and empathy.
This empathy is painful at times. When we identify with the feelings of the people around us without knowing what caused them to feel that way, there is a tendency to either take on those feelings as our own or to push them so far away that we look down on ourselves when we feel the same way.
Striking a balance between empathizing with others and staying true to who we are is hard. It requires a constant state of mindfulness and an abandonment of self-judgemental tendencies. Over time, we naturally learn to know ourselves by means of compassion and self-criticism. Throughout that process, we also gain the tools to understand those around us. When this ability is lacking, we can look to memory to gently reveal to us the patterns in our lives and how they may present themselves in the lives of others. Every time I revisit a memory, I have no choice but to see it differently than I had experienced it.
As we honour our memories and the knowledge gained from those experiences, we can better appreciate the wisdom and experiences of our family, friends, and strangers, too. We can have the memory shortcuts without needing to analyze where they’ve come from or explaining them to other people. We create an inventory of all our knowledge, whether it originates from lived experience or deeply held intuitions. Most importantly, we learn to accept who we are and to be confident in our viewpoint of the world, without needing to justify our vision and our actions to anyone.