Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Smoky Memories

Every time I try to remember something from my past, my memories get distorted and camouflage themselves in-between unorganized snapshots of what could have been. It’s as if I’m not supposed to remember things as they really happened.

In general I have difficulties evoking anything from the past, I can remember the big picture but I can’t recall the details of any specific situation. I remember very well all the houses I have lived in, but I can’t remember my neighbors’ names, my address, or any of my teachers’ names. I sometimes joke saying that I have an “autonomous selective” memory, where my heart and brain choose on their own and as they please, what to be kept and what to thrash away.

I can still feel the emotional pain, the need to escape, the will to disappear that kept hunting me during my childhood and until my early twenties… but I can’t recall the details of the things that made me feel that way. No matter how hard I try, my brain is still refusing to let me dig in for those answers that are buried within the memories. So I keep asking myself over and over: "What is hiding there? Why can’t I remember?"

More than ten years ago while living in Kenya I met a Hindu monk who upon my request read the lines of my hands. I will never forget the way he looked at me after observing for a long time my left palm (the one that represents the past). With tenderness he looked through my eyes searching for my broken soul, but despite his kindhearted effort, he could not pass the defensive systems I had built long ago. My heart was hidden behind an impenetrable wall, afraid of showing up, terrified and alarmed of anyone trying to reach deep enough. The monk couldn’t disguise his sadness, but showed understanding and respected my unconscious but tacit refusal to allow him reaching any further, so after a while he said: “You have had a very rough life; you are a survival who had suffered everything you needed to in this life, so from now on, life will be good. Open your heart, you are safe now”.

I wanted to ask him a thousand questions, I wanted to know what he saw… but I didn’t. Something inside me prevented me from seeking the knowledge I always craved for. Somehow I knew that it wasn’t right to force the past into my life through a stranger’s interpretation of my history. If I was supposed to remember, then the memories will come to me when ready, or else, they will keep smoky and sneaky forever and ever…

After so many ups and downs my heart is finally open and willing to give and receive. The wall is down and all defensive systems have been successfully deactivated, but my memories are still refusing to show up… It doesn’t matter how hard I try to get them back, they are out of my reach, and so I keep asking myself: "What is hiding there? Why can’t I remember?"

If dispersing the smoky memories is going to bring hate, bitterness and regrets, then I should let them rest in peace as they will not contribute to anything positive to my present. Maybe it is time for me to accept that all I need to know from my past is that it happened, that somehow it worked out, and thanks to it I’m who I’m today.

© 2010 Gabriela Abalo


Kass said...

Gabi - I think you're smart to leave the past where it belongs - in the past.

I have vague memories of my past too. I remember at age 4 or 5, sitting on the toilet and grabbing my ankles while I rocked back and forth in utter nausea and fear. I said to myself, "I will always remember this. When I put myself in this position in the future, I will remember this,"....but I don't know what it is I should remember.

I had a counselor who said much the same thing that your monk said. Why rehearse our pain? We can choose to be happy every day.

Beautifully written post!

Anonymous said...

Lindo Gabita!! Insisto en que hay un giro en tu manera de escribir!! Mas desde tu corazon, desde tus experiencias sin querer transformar y cambiar al otro... eso no quiere decir que no suceda pero el punto de partida es totalmente diferente, mas suavecito y amoroso! Me gusta!
Beso enorme


Wine and Words said...

You know how closely I relate to this, having almost no memories prior to the age of 13. They are elusive, refusing to show themselves, even though I am open. It was a 13 year black hole, and it taught me well how to detach from a moment and let it pass me by without notice. Sad really, for I AM, you ARE, safe now. I too ask the question, "What is hiding there? Why can’t I remember?"

Gabriela Abalo said...

Yes my dear friend, I’m leaving the past right there… in the past.
Same as you Kass, I can remember the hopeless feelings but not their causes… things do happen for a reason and we have survived… so it is time to concentrate on our blessed “present”.
Thank you very much for being so open and share your own experience. It is always comforting to know we are not alone.


Gabriela Abalo said...

Lole: Pues si tienes razón, estoy cambiando, creciendo, ya no necesito pelear, imponer o controlar, ahora puedo dar a través de mi escritura y fotografía loveNlight. La guerrera sigue ahí, pero ya no está en plan de batalla - esta vez se ha tomado un merecido descanso.

nos vemos prontito.

Gabriela Abalo said...

As always I’m very touched by your comment. I totally relate with you on the “detachment” aspect, the ability to be left untouched did help us to survive… but it shouldn’t be like that, as it also affected all our emotional aspects. I still remember the number of people who firmly believed I was born without a heart – seeing that I wasn’t able to show any emotion.
That time is over! I’m different now and ready to share all the loveNlight I’m able to during this lifetime.


standing on my head said...

i always wonder if the unremembered past continues to affect my present in ways that hinder me. i've noticed that when i am ready, the memories return, not in a painful or destructive way, but in an educational, guiding way. i just have to trust the unfolding, in nature's time, not mine!

edpilolla said...

what an amazing post. i mean, the journey we take as broken people is truly a life-long journey. i remember things and other things i don't, and the way you shade the color of that what-if sort of wondering about our memory is it exactly. this is an eternal subject, but it seems like people today are really seeking to get healthy internally like never before. here via wine and words and that wonderful wendell berry quote u left. the photo of the butterfly is truly art within this piece. thank u.

Gabriela Abalo said...

Standing: as Doménico Estrada once said: “Bring the past only if you are going to build from it.”
So I am with you, letting time do the work… what needs to be remembered will be remember at the right time.
I love your approach, is very healthy and constructive.


Once Known as The Badger said...

Some memories are too recent to be discounted and push themselves up unasked for. Time is an expensive way to put them to rest.

Suzanne Casamento said...

Interesting theory. You're probably right, you remember only what you remember for areason,

Kirk Jusko said...

I don't remember falling on some rocks when I was 4 years old and splitting my knee open, yet I still have a scar, though it's now very faint.

I doubt if the human psyche is much different.

Tag said...

The power is in the present my friend. It is here where we stand now that we are free to act, to change the future to one of love and light, as you have done and continue to do, every day. You are a creator without limit. Walk freely in that light.

Gabriela Abalo said...

Edpilolla: welcome to the blog! To become our best, we need to understand ourselves, to know why we behave the way we do. That inner knowledge only comes from looking deep inside and appreciating that not everything is black and white.

“Memory is a complicated thing, a relative to truth, but not its twin.” ~Barbara Kingsolver

Thank you for your comment and for appreciating the butterfly photo and its connection to this post – (I took it on my last trip to Kampala – Uganda.)


Gabriela Abalo said...

Badger: Hmmmm… true, but “Memory is a child walking along a seashore. You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.” ~Pierce Harris


Gabriela Abalo said...

Suzanne: welcome to the blog! Smoky memories aren’t bad after all… they will clear if needed to.


Gabriela Abalo said...

Kirk: human psyche isn’t any different. But it is part of our human nature to want to know everything, even the things that should be left alone.

“Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened”
~T.S. Eliot


Gabriela Abalo said...

Tag: “You are a creator without lime. Walk freely in that light” just what I needed to hear today!! Thank you my dear friend.


Lisa said...

So beautifully written Gabriela. So honest. I am sorry you have suffered such pain early on in life. But imagine hearing all that is behind you and now life will be good? What a blessing!

I once received two very different schools of thought / teaching / ways to cope about this very thing.

One came from the second best psychiatric facility in the United States: It doesn't matter how you got here, what the root of the pains are, as long as you are dealing appropriately with the "fallout."

The second came from a nationally reknowned meditation facility - you must find out where the pain is coming from or you will never heal.

Talk about two different messages! What I've personally decided is that I don't WANT to know where the pain is coming from. Like you, I just need to know that my past happened and I am here, strong, I have some issues but I get through them. But NOW is all that matters.

Thanks again for sharing.

Gabriela Abalo said...

Lisa: totally agree with you, NOW is all that matters. But if the NOW is being negatively affected by the past, then we should try to heal it, so we can be fully present and happy in the NOW.
Thank you for sharing the different approaches, both of them are very right even if they are contradicting each other – humans beings are so different that what works for one may not work for the other.
Today I’m happy and feeling very comfortable in my own skin, despite the smoky memories.

Thanks for stopping by.

Jim Swindle said...

I'm new to your blog; found it from Magpie Tales. This is a moving post. I'm reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote, "Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it [the resurrection] my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Gabriela Abalo said...

Jim: welcome to the blog!!
Thank you for sharing such inspiring note.
Focusing on the present is the key to freedom and fulfillment.


Lyn said...

I think the monk saw the truth of you..that you are a truly privileged person, a seeker, who will realize your life, right now, this very moment, and your payback(karma)will become evident, and if it isn't easy, no matter... and you will write the way you do.
I've been a "reader" for ages, I've been you, with other details..we are like a kaleidescope! Thanks...