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Creating Your Memories

August 31, 2011

Memory.

A few years ago I read a news article about a woman who remembers everything, down to sitcom episodes on specific dates from decades ago. At first I was envious, imagining the joy of recalling carefree summer days with an old friend or the tender moments shared with a now deceased relative. How great would it be, I thought, to play back the highlights of your life with such detail and clarity. Quickly, as I’m sure you are now, my mind drifted to the lowlights: digging up old arguments with your spouse and feeling the sharp flare of anger again or, worse, reliving the time-shattering moment when you lost the beloved relative. For most of us, memory is a mind-made creation; so intense in the moment, but slowly evolving with each recollection, each year and each new experience to color the old.

This became evident recently upon returning from an incredible 3-week vacation in Europe. In the moment, the agony of blistered feet and the wonder of a Venetian sunset were more real and more palpable than our house, friends and family waiting for us back home. Yet, as we begrudgingly returned to the 8-5, I’ve found those memories shaded by the sound bites and highlights we repeat over and over for each inquirer. The nuance of each experience is fading in exchange for the overarching headlines: “You go to Barcelona for the architecture,” “Venice is one big, floating city where everything is pretty,” “Salzburg was really nice but you could probably see it all in a day or two.”

None of those statements are false, but they’re far from the truth of what this vacation meant to my partner and me. And I meant to journal along the way, I really did. I meant to put onto paper the awe I felt looking up at La Sagrada Familia, not just for the indescribable architecture but also the passion of its architect, Antoni Gaudí;

I meant to sit down beneath that crimson Venetian sunset and describe the sound of the water lapping against the gondolas and the lilting call of the gondolier as he flirted tourists onto his boat;

I meant to document each nook and cranny of Salzburg as our time there stretched to five days and I began to feel at home among the towering green hills.

I meant to, but I didn’t. And I want to change that.

I’m honored to be invited to guest blog here at Conduit Press and hope it will help me on this journey. What better opportunity to begin putting down memories than for a friend whose gorgeous journals are inspiring folks around the world to make the same promise to themselves. I’d wager that none of us have the total recall of the woman above (and I’d wager that none of us care to remember a Murphy Brown plot from 1986!), so let us write down our memories while they, and their effect on us, are still fresh. Let us (me!) also write down the memories from the past though they have grown over with the moss of time and perspective. Someday, when my body weakens and my mind fails me, I can pull those out and think how sweet memory is even when the nectar comes from both joy and sadness.

Care to share one of your favorite memories with us? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

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