Friday, January 08, 2010

1.8 Echoes of memory

I've been in a bunch of different conversations lately, and each one has sent shivering echoes through my emotions, echoes of memory, reminders of times past. The conversations have been about other people (as they should be), conversations about their health issues, their current emotional voyages, and yet each one reminds me of times past. Each conversation that begins "my health... my child... my parent..." brings up "oh yes, my health... my child... my siblings... my parent..." soaring up out of memory, emotionally charged items out of my past. I want to say "oh, yes, I've been there, I remember..." and yet, these conversations are not about me, my past, but other people's presents.

When talking with people who know my own personal history, a simple statement, of "oh yes, you remember when..." allows me to indicate that I do really know what we're talking about from the inside, and still return the conversation to the other person, not taking it over and making it all about me. When I'm talking to people who don't have that shared history with me, stopping to explain all the details of why that's the case would seem to snatch the conversation away, so I don't, or at least I try not to.

It's worse at this particular moment as I seem to be in a little eddy of coincidence where everyone I meet IRL and online is having direct parallels with my own experiences, where everything is sending these little emotional shockwaves bouncing around, and the sheer numbers of them start to make me wonder "how many possible awful things have I lived through?" My mother, my sister, my brother, my father, myself, my husband, my daughter, my son, my friends... I think, on the whole, it's just the accumulation of time and living that makes me feel this way. Things happen to everyone at various points in time, but not to everyone all at once. It's only when one has the perspective of time that one can look back and see the slow accretion of emotional shocks, layering in one's mind, in the past and dormant until other people's experiences remind us.

I certainly haven't had all possible experiences. There are many many types of things I'll never encounter, and when other people do, I can be sympathetic without having that involuntary spasm of empathy. But my particular litany of items is long enough at this point that it's coming back to haunt me with every current conversation.

Oh, yes, I've been there, I remember...


joan said...

Thank you for this post and for saying this so beautifully.

Cookie said...


beadlizard said...

E, we're getting older!

I for one am very glad you've had an interesting life -- I love your stories and value our conversations.