Monday, June 23, 2014

This is Not a Tragedy


We don't have brain space for everything, and the human memory is notoriously inaccurate, which is actually fine by me. It's more about the style of internal movie you want to create. I'm going for an "indie comedy" that is actually funny and ultimately upbeat, rather than an ultra depressing production that really should just be called a "weird drama."

My internal curator, the one who controls how I record my life in memories, has a rather dark world view. He wears a brown '70s suit and smokes a cigar in a darkened room while watching the movie reel of my life. His job is to decide which segments are important and how intensely they will be remembered. Unfortunately for me, his primary artistic themes are fear, rejection, and shame. Some particularly bright memories make the cut just for contrast, but mostly he selects material about how things went wrong.

This guy fancies himself a pragmatist, but I think he's just scared, and maybe with good reason. He is trying to protect, in the only way he knows how, those exiled parts of me that are deeply wounded from a lifetime of anxiety and hyper-sensitivity ("Sensory Processing Disorder"). So he weaves a cautionary tale via memories like:
  • The way that friendships ended.
  • My long dark days as a new mother. 
  • Rejection by high school crushes. 
  • Recoiling from my partner's touch, unsafe in my own skin. 
  • The sensory overload of the city.  
  • Getting teased on the bus. 
  • Chronic pain, both physical and emotional.
Okay so no one's life is perfect. And there is value in remembering and learning from pain. But in my case the curator has gone way overboard on this point. He has neglected the fact that my story is also, and more generally, one of good fortune and abundant love. Even light-heartedness and joy! My photo albums and memorabilia support this side of the tale. Sometimes I come across a forgotten old picture and am blown away by both the happiness of that memory AND the fact that I ever forgot it. Thank goodness for physical documentation of all my sweet and hilarious people and experiences. And thank goodness for the family and friends who have remained in my life or showed up again, even in passing, reflecting back a happier "me" than I can see from the inside.

I've just started trying to rework the memory reel to bring back more of the good stuff. I'm also trying to celebrate the best of the present as it happens, deliberately recording it in full color for posterity.

Because this--my life--is not a tragedy. This is a funny, heartwarming, and ultimately upbeat indie comedy.

Do you hear me, cigar-smoking movie guy? YOU'RE UNDER NEW DIRECTION.