Thursday, July 25, 2013

Memories in the corner of my mind... or piling up in my garage... or lost to the oblivion

Our brain is a marvelous machine.  For a multitude of reason.  One of the things I find most fascinating is the ability it has to suppress memories.  Yes, this is a true concept.  There is research from Stanford that has proven that there is a neurobiological response in the brain that shuts down our ability to retrieve traumatic memories, a type of voluntary forgetfulness.  As it is, I have gaping voids in my childhood memory bank and I am beginning to understand why.  And I can see how my tendency to suppress memories created a void rather than small holes.  As I have worked to resurface suppressed memories (a painful and debilitating process) I have noticed that I have gained a greater capacity for remembering everyday things.  There was once a time when my memory maker was so focused on suppressing that daily life became muted, fuzzy, static that I couldn't remember.  I have decades that passed this way for me, including my first years as a new wife and mother.  For a long time I thought there was something terribly wrong with my brain that my memories were so non-existent.  I blamed a lot of it on a concussion I got when I was nine--that had to be why, right?--and sleeping issues, tired brains are foggy.

I have not one, but two large plastic totes--not to mention the several totes of pictures--in my garage dedicated solely to old letters and other memorabilia from my high school and college days.  Someday I'm going to put it all in books and loving place them in my personal library--that I will also someday obtain.  In the meantime, I'll enjoy randomly picking things out and pouring over them, mostly because these tangible things help me access my memories.

Here's something I found amidst all my things.  I wrote this my very first class at Ricks College in July of 1998.  I had just turned 18 and left home and I was ready to take on the world.  This piece is both hilarious and sad to me.  

Years From Now

If you are reading this you must be a descendant of mine.  And that's cool if you are because that means you have awesome ancestors.  Ha, Ha!  Anyway, I just wanted to let you know a little about my world and the things that I think you would find interesting.

For starters, you would probably think clothes we wear are a little different.  At least, I assume they will be different from what my descendants will wear.  Mostly, people wear jeans and t-shirts.  But that can vary quite a bit.  Jeans can be anywhere from looking like they were painted on to looking like they are going to fall off at any giving moment.  It is rather interesting what people think is fashionable.  The same rules apply to shirts basically.  They can be tight.  They can be see-thru, strapless, long-sleeved, loose.  They can come down to your knees or way up past your belly button.  Shoes are a little different too.  During the summer, most people where sandals that range from v-strapped flip-flops--my personal favorite--to twenty-strap things.  Also they might wear tennis shoes, or kickers as my high-school mentor called them, which come in all different designs and colors.

Another thing that might interest you is our transportation.  The cars and trucks that we drive all run on gasoline or diesel fuel.  They pollute the air and make a ton of noise.  Recently, they have started making them from plastic instead of steel.  It doesn't seem to make them any cheaper though.

Speaking of money, here is something you might like to know: a pop cost anywhere from $0.50-$1.00.

For a descriptive essay it is sorely lacking descriptions and when I first read it I thought, "Wow, my writing has come a long way since then."  But the more I have thought about it, I'm fairly certain that, as I mentioned, my memory blocks had a hand in all that's lacking here.  I vaguely remembering finding this essay difficult to write because I couldn't find the words to describe things.  And I'm a smart girl with a big vocabulary.  I think part of the mental block I had in writing this was that I was supposed to envision writing it to my descendants... and family was subconsciously a no-no, my brain didn't want to go there. 

Compare that with this synopsis of my childhood I wrote sometime within the last year:

As far as what I remember about my childhood:

I remember running and riding my bike through the neighborhood from sun-up to sun-down with wild abandon.  I remember eating things like peanut butter and syrup sandwiches, fried bologna and tuna helper and lots and lots of chips and coke (every soda was coke!) and cereal for nearly every meal.  No my mother didn't cook.  Ever.  I remember wearing lots of bright neon colors and having steps shaved into my hair and being desperate to wear my mother's blue eyeshadow and hot pink lipstick.  I remember our house was decorated in mauve and baby blue and ducks.  I remember being head-over-heals in L.O.V.E. with Michael Jackson and going to see an MJ impersonator in concert and giggling uncontrollably as he kissed my cheek.  I remember watching lots of TV: Fragle Rock and the Smurfs and the Muppets, Popples, DuckTales and Tale Spin, X-men and GI Joes, He-Man and Thundercats, HOOOO!  And I remember my parents letting us watch whatever scary movies we wanted like Freddie Crugar and Jason, IT and Killer Klowns from Outer-space and the Fly.  Thus I remember having numerous vivid nightmares.  I also remember watching Back to the Future and thinking life was going to be awesome when I was a grown-up.  I remember puffy paint and scrunchies and banana clips.  And lipsmackers!  And I remember being boy-crazy and playing kissing-tag at recess and thinking Kelly G* was pregnant in the 3rd grade because she let Jacob Sanders* put his tongue in her mouth.  

This was written after I had started to unveil and acknowledge my suppressed memories and I had started the process of healing.  There is so much more life, color, imagery and actual memories and details in that second piece... and in my daily life right now.  Again, some could argue that my writing style has matured and I've honed those skills a little better... and I have.   But for me, inside my head, I can feel the unlocking taking place.  It's a terrifying and magnificent thing.

*Names changed to protect the innocent :)

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