The things that have made up a life –

Yesterday I went to hear Helen Dunmore talk about her wonderful book, The Siege. She said something that I haven’t been able to shake. This:

“…all the things that have made up a life continue to be alive and active even though they’re not necessarily in the forefront…”

It’s that corner of your eye suddenly realise that you’ve been thinking of it all along thing.

I scribbled down her words because, at first, it was exciting and reassuring to hear my thoughts articulated; but now I’m not so sure. If the memories are always there, lingering around the periphery, how do we ever move on?  And where’s the freedom if the things that have happened, whether we wanted them to or not, have left a permanent imprint rather than a shadow. If we layer up memory upon memory until the perspective is always filtered through these lens and the space for seeing new things contracts.

I do not know.

I know that a sound or smell can fling me back. That sometimes, I’ll remember something and realise I’ve been living in that memory all along. That often, I will see the past patterns before I see the reality and it is only through stepping back, or in the presence of a vast difference, that I acknowledge the imposition.

The memories are not particularly traumatic, in fact, a lot of them are golden…it’s just that it’s hard to distinguish past from present, sometimes, when we continue to layer up a life. 

Maybe it is enough to recognise this.

To note the parallels and acknowledge the blurring: to catch ourselves if we’re spending too much time at the edges and consciously choose what we’d like to be at the forefront – because there is somethings beautiful, too, in how memories live after the moment. How the layers can also be a picture or a story or a context. How much depth there is in each and every life. 

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3 responses to “The things that have made up a life –

  1. 🙂

  2. I think what you are asking about is to do with meaning.

    If we process our experiences so that they are meaningful to us then they are more easily available to us and not so easily overwhelming. This is a very general statement of course, I hope I’m making sense.

  3. Great post, and it is making me think (hard!)

    I think that being aware of the layers and how they have impacted you, how they have contributed to who you are makes all the difference. It means we have the ability to choose to act differently, if we want to as well.

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