I slowed to let the young lad on the bicycle pull out onto the roundabout. That looks like… I raised my hand to wave to my son’s friend and instantly realised my mistake. It might have been his son, but it certainly was not the boy I had known. It couldn’t be… he would be in his thirties now and this youngster was little more than a child. Even worse, he looked like my son’s best friend when we had first known him, almost twenty years ago, not as I had last seen him a couple of years ago, well over six foot tall and as broad as a tank.
Memory is a funny thing. I recalled a recent conversation where we had discussed how the images that we hold in our minds of people we know are not always accurate. Sometimes we picture them from a single moment in time, often the first time we met them. Sometimes we build up a composite picture, snapshots from across the years we have known them, all melded together and occasionally shifting from one angle to the next. Then again, we always look through the eyes of emotion, seeing a face that may reflect more about the true depth and nature of our feelings for that person than what they actually look like.
Memory and emotion are intimately linked. When we look back from the now, we see both events and people through the emotional eyes of the then. Our memory of events will inevitably be skewed, coloured by the emotions of that moment, rather than being the accurate record we think we hold. In many ways, that does not matter; what we remember is true… for us, as whatever we recall is what will have affected us as we moved through that moment and forward into the rest of our lives.
Continue reading at The Silent Eye
Hi, Sue! I’m so glad I was able to catch this post, after having been so long between. During the summer, I completed my second book and am now on to the third. The chapter I just completed writing this morning is entitled “ghosts.” In it, I delve into the ying to the yang of your post here; that is, just as we see current people and events through the eyes of the past, we also see all past events and people through the eyes of the present. We are continually superimposing what and how our present-self knows and thinks and feels onto our many past selves. For instance, when we look back at childhood memories, we are continually reinterpreting them based on what we’ve learned since then, ascribing the that child thoughts and motive (and often unnecessary blame or shame) based on all we’ve discovered since that time so long ago.
My own mom was recently reduced to tears over feeling guilt about decisions she made with regard to me and my siblings back in the 70s and 80s. I let her get her words and emotions out as she was experiencing them. Then I asked, “Mom, what was your motive when you made those decisions? Did you act out of hatred for your children, hoping to cause us pain? Or did you act out of love, thinking you were doing the best thing by us, based on your knowledge and beliefs at the time?” New tears spilled over as she blurted, “Love! I have always loved you kids. I thought I was doing the right thing. It’s all I knew back then.” I paused to let her own declaration sink in. Then I continued, “Why should you feel ashamed for loving your kids the best you knew how when you were young, or for living according to your principles the best you understood them at that age? Your motive was love, then as it is now. Hold onto that. Let the rest go. You can’t keep punishing yourself for the choices that past-you made, as if she knew what it took present-you another lifetime to figure out.”
This idea of how our many past selves interact with and are influenced by our present self, then, has been at the forefront of my own thoughts for a while now. Thanks for adding another dimension to those musings.
Nice to see you here, Erik. I was only thinking of you yesterday and wondering how you were doing. I hope the eye problem has been sorted out for you .
Yes, the adult self has a hard time looking back at past events through the eyes of the younger self. I know there are events that have played a major part in shaping who I am and will become that my adult self would have handled in a very different manner, but which the child handled as best she could with the experience she had at the time…which wasn’t much.
It is easy, as you say, to attribute blame or feel shame from the perspective of who we are today, forgetting that our younger selves had only a fraction of the armoury of experience we now have at our disposal. Easy too to blame others without thinking that they too were younger and dealing with their own problems and lives as best they knew how.
We all make mistakes, often with the best of intentions. If we can accept that, acknowledging without blame or shame, we can learn and grow.
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How very true, and how beautifully expressed.
So true regarding memory and emotions.
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