Mind's Eye

“We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they're called memories. Some take us forward, they're called dreams.” ~Jeremy Irons, British Actor

I have been thinking about memory a lot lately … or maybe my lack thereof … or even my obsession with reminiscence. For whatever reason, it is on the forefront of my mind.

I find myself slightly amused at how fickle a thing the mind’s eye can be at times.

“It's surprising how much of memory is built around things unnoticed at the time” ~Barbara Kingsolver, American Writer

Why do I remember what I remember? Why do I tend to recall events I would rather bury in mental oblivion with incredible clarity? Why can I sing along to almost every song on the radio yet can not recall the names of the last ten individuals I met regardless of how many times I use their names in conversation with the express purpose of being able to actually call them by name the next time we come face to face? Why does a random memory regarding someone from high school pop suddenly into my mind when I have no idea what my children said to me five minutes ago? What happened to those years that are literally … blank … missing … a void in my life? Why is it I have no recollection of seeing some movies and others stick with me line by line? How is it possible that I recall the climbing of a challenging tree for the first time yet can not place my age at the time? Six, seven, eight … I know not. Why can I flip on the tape recorder in my head and replay conversations held years ago word for word? Literally. Why do I forget to pick up half of the things I need at the grocery store, yet can not forget inane details about a job I had three years ago? Why can I not memorize Biblical scripture when book quotes survive like a literary encyclopedia in the recesses of my brain? What good does remembering my fastest time in the 100-meter dash from high school do me? Does it make sense that I remember random birthdays from random individuals throughout my life and I can not tell you the birth dates of any of my nieces and nephews without this nifty online service that sends me reminders a week before the event?

Are you following me?

Then again, more important than what I do remember is the accuracy of said memories. There are those that are glaringly realistic. I am pretty damn sure that is how those events played out. Trust me, you would not forget the details either … or maybe you would. That is how strange the memory is. Still – I am also sure that some memories have been embellished by my own fantasies in childhood and adulthood both. Is that a bad thing or simply a coping mechanism?

"There's no disappointment in memory, and one's exaggerations are always on the good side." ~George Eliot, Daniel Deronda

There is also the question of the aforementioned memory gaps … months, even years, where I simply can not summon forth a clear cut decisive memory. Yes, I am pretty sure my (at the time) untreated bipolar disorder contributed quite a bit to these episodes. Are the memories there? Buried? Would it be harmful for me to try and bring them forward into the light of day? Could they simply be held back by the mask of depression – or mania? Are they safer locked away? My instinct is to leave them in peace. What do you think?

“Memory is man's greatest friend and worst enemy.” ~Gilbert Parker, Romany of the Snows

Memory. It is, indeed, a strange and mysterious thing. Now – what was I working on before all this mess popped into my mind?

“Time, sometimes the time just slips away
And you're left with yesterday
Left with the memories”

~Leanne Rimes, Please Remember


  1. It's a big subject, Beth, and one I have given a lot of thought to over recent months. One interim conclusion I have reached is that what we remember is triggered not so much by the event itself as by what was going on invisibly in us at the time. I tend to remember "moments" rather than what could be called events; and something that happens today can trigger the memory of something that happened sixty years ago. To give an extreme example, I was out walking a couple of months ago around a field which had been ploughed and harrowed, leaving a single stone standing above the smoothed soil. Insignificant, but it reminded me of seeing the same thing when I was a boy at boarding school. But it would have been insignificant then too! But there was a feeling attached. The complicated events and feelings of my young life had been written on to that stone!

    That we can do such a thing is not surprising because these marks of black on white - words and sentences - are equally evocative.

  2. Memories are emotions in visual form. Or is that too simplified?

  3. I think i have a memeory like a sieve. What i remember is less than what i forget.

  4. vincent ~ I could tell you were feeling much the same way by reading your own posts. Apologies for not responding sooner. The home pc needs to go to the computer graveyard.

    dba ~ I don't know if that is too simplified or not. I do like the comparison.

    candybox ~ I feel that way now that I have had children. I think I transferred all of my good brain cells to them. :o)

  5. I know there are neurologists out there that could give you a specific answer for each of the memory scenarios you mentioned. It would be something like how neural pathways are chemically strengthed and how hormones, etc can influence the process depending on the state of your brain at the time of the event, and which part of the cerebrum is involved in storing memory data... but who can remember such an explanation anyway? LOL

    It has been brought to my attention (by friends and family) that I have a nasty habit of creating or embellishing memories, too. Hey, as long as I'm happy in my perceptions of my life, who cares!? In fact, wouldn't it be great if everyone could remember things in a happy positive way!

    Thanks for a thought provoking post!

  6. aine ~ At least I am not alone in my fabrications! :o) Tell Jason hello!

  7. I say don't worry about what isn't readily remembered...it will come if it is needed. Need seems to be the factor, for me, and I trust in it. Dreams do their thing likewise, I trust in that too, and in the memory of them or not, makes no difference, there if needed, not if not.

    As to verification of the memories, ha, rare if another agrees with my rendition, and that too, I don't worry with, why should I believe them? And who cares if they believe me? Not I.


"Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?" ~Walt Whitman


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