Am I odd to remember vividly the music, or an emotion I felt fifty years ago? There are times I can even remember a smell, like the lilac bush. When I was a little girl, one Christmas I was given a lilac “perfume stick” --- kind of like you’d buy in lipstick form now. Again, the scent takes me back to a time in front of a small, sparsely trimmed Christmas tree and I can sometimes still smell it, even if there are no lilacs in the room! I won’t say I understand it, but every now and again, I find myself going back there, and each time it makes me smile, contentedly. None of these memories are even “life events” but they are etched in my mind as clearly as the day they happened.
Our mind is an amazing, complex processing device! Our memories help us keep a sense of self as we sift through our personal mental filing cabinet to recollect pieces of time that helped mold us into the person we have become. It seems memory can be triggered by all kinds of things that creates a cascading effect; you remember one thing, and then another is triggered by the one before it! Some suggest it is age, others believe it has something to do with stress or unpleasant situations from our childhood, and others contend it’s just part of our journey of the continuation of life.
Sometimes triggers cause memories to recur, we’d really not like to repeat since they were created through a trauma or bad experience. While most of my memories take me back to a place that is warm, comfortable and makes me smile, memories of an unpleasant time triggered by a smell, voice, image or sound that is not at all pleasant can cause the body to react negatively, producing a lot of stress. When this happens a person likely needs to try to relax, attempt to identify the cause of the bad feeling and then decide how to respond, so the stress level can moderate.
While I would not want to have a memory recur caused from trauma or a bad experience, I find it a pleasant occurrence to remember tiny bits of “another time, another place” when it brings me joy. While I can’t begin to remember all the details of the “event,” I do remember contentment, even at those times when I was self conscious and insecure about who I was or what would happen next. For that single moment in time, I felt exquisite joy and am grateful to revisit that place that is especially “really familiar.”
I’m told our memories have a way of blurring the unhappy memories of life, and I suppose that would be healthy since it seems we as humans have the uncanny ability to focus on those bad things rather than the happier ones. So if we can soften the edges of the rather unpleasant ones, so they can’t cause the same intensity of pain they probably caused on the outset, then that is a blessing, and I am grateful!
How do you view your memories? Are they good, warm and comfortable, or cold and dark? Do you think time has a way of clouding the unpleasant? What do you think your children will remember from their childhood, as adults?