One of the things about being 66 is memories. Flocks and layers. We the older humans perhaps discovered palimpsests, rather than the art historians who own the concept now.
There are memories that surface as fragments of events, vivid. The feel of the skin on my mother’s cheekbones, my unfettered happiness the day of my second wedding, the smell of Sea and Ski sunscreen, my best friend’s phone greeting, the first night in the hospital with my daughter after her birth, the sound of my son’s cries and quieting in his plastic bassinet 7 hours after he was born in the selfsame place. One beach in Barbados.
There are other memories we can scavenge along a more linear path, in categories. My Jobs. Good Food I’ve Made. Old Friends, to say nothing of the memories we know we had but have lost. The office of Cameron Mackintosh, where I worked 1979-80 for six months, what was the name of the theater it was over? The stairs were very steep, the bathroom ceiling very low.
Lately I’ve been thinking about pain. In particular, how we coped back when a painful event happened, and how we bring those memories forward. Because we are everything we’ve ever experienced.
(I cannot speak to clinical trauma, which is defined as that with which we could not cope, and therefore have stored away in our circuitry somewhere. I hope you have none, or that you’ve found resources to help you reintegrate the events or place them in context. )
But, and I’m getting to the whole point, at 66 I’m finding it useful to examine the ways in which I have habitually coped with painful events. On the one hand, particularly when colored by shame, I’ve tended to store them in mental closets ready to ambush me at 3:00am all the stronger for their rest among my towels. On the other, where possible, I’ve made a practice of building conceptual models to frame and tame. These have caged my distress, if you will, sometimes more perfectly than either. Difference being that we can see through cages, that the sense of control is stronger than for things in closets.
I suppose we could say I’m now in the process of opening both doors and bars. Carefully. For 20 minutes a day, maximum. Beasts roped.
This is mine to do. It causes me to re-experience pain, which I do not enjoy.
But I’m puzzling over where that pain has involved others, how much to involve them? At the moment I’m thinking we should read people’s cues and, where we have the internal strength, ask permission to re-open wounds. Or at the very least, diligently handle what we can ourselves first. This doesn’t apply to abuse, or violating aggression. Free pass.
But I truly don’t know. This is the first time in my life I’ve had the time and emotional space to consider such things, rather than just getting through. I am curious if others are thinking about anything similar.
Also, I was at my 45th Princeton Reunion last weekend.
Have a wonderful Saturday. My fuchsias are blooming.