Please don’t ask me to remember something. Don’t say, “Remember the time we…” or “Tell me about when…”.
The past, for me, is a wasteland of vague impressions, abstractions, and perceptions. Memories are not movies playing out in my mind. They aren’t clear and vivid photo-quality images.
I’m good at remembering odd, insignificant details. Like how I decided to name my fat, orange goldfish Garfield. Then I named his skinny, gray swimming partner Simon. I thought it was clever to reference the famous Sunday comics cat, while also indirectly suggesting a famous sixties folk-pop duo. And yes, Garfield is close enough to Garfunkel to make this witty in my mind. I remember how they died. Simon went first. It was a nameless, tumor-causing fish disease. I was glad that Garfield outlived him by several years, even though he eventually succumbed to the mysterious belly up-disease.
Looking at photos is helpful. So is listening to stories that friends and relatives tell. But I can’t seem to shake the uncomfortable realization that vast chunks of my life exist somewhere in a black, inaccessible void. This is what scares me. It makes me feel sad and wholly inadequate to describe my own past.
It’s not that I don’t remember any of it. It’s that I remember it differently than others. It’s selective at best. My memories are often random and always subjective. I’ve come to accept this as a by-product of being an INFJ. My dominant cognitive function is introverted intuition. Which means I can’t also have introverted sensing. I’m not able to file sensory images away in my brain and retrieve them at will. I’m much better at thinking abstract thoughts and finding patterns. It’s also why I miss exits on the highway when I’m talking to someone.
For day three of my21 Day Writing Challenge, I have decided to consider the past. I’m drawn to memoir and I’m not sure why.
So far I’ve managed to capture two interesting childhood moments in the form of a memoir. Was this a stroke of luck? An un-reproducible, isolated phenomenon? Am I doomed to fail at memoir writing?
I’m sure I have a few more where those came from, so I’m going to try and suspend all self-deprecation from this point forward.
Maybe there’s a reason I like memoir so much. Maybe I like the idea of struggling with the elusive past, fishing something out of the depths of time, and re-working it into a meaningful story.