Some people seem to be able to peacefully coexist with their memories. Often, though, the external impression is the wrong one. I used to work with recovering drug users, and one of the most powerful threats they faced was the possibility of the memory of a situation taking over and beating them into lapsing back into use. It went as far in one case as a series of discussions with one client who had set out to be a nurse, but his previous job as a chef - stressful work environment, unusual hours - was too close in character for him to do it. His memory was a great burden to him, not because he was constantly actively reliving his own previous habit, but because it made him vulnerable to certain situations. He could not put himself into those situations for fear of that bit of him that couldn't cope, couldn't choose wisely... You'll be delighted to read that my brain went in two different directions at once then; one was Trainspotting (Choose Life!) and that bloke who is guarding the Holy Grail at the end of Last Crusade who tells Indiana Jones that the one fella choose poorly, and he chose wisely. Apparently that inability to marshal your train of thought is an autistic trope. Perhaps. I would imagine that there's a few bits of me that do autistic-type stuff. The current discourse on the subject is - hopefully - beginning to steer away from 'disability' and towards 'difference', which is something that's a bit easier to celebrate. Certainly my work colleague I mentioned last time seems to be able to think in these terms. She's like a sort of living guide to the subject. She brings, for me, a beautiful clarity to the world by which she is so often baffled. I think I help her, sometimes. At least I would like to think so. Two different views of a subject are always so much more informative.
I am aware that I do not always hide my feelings behind a mask. More accurately, I have had to learn to hide them a bit more, for several reasons, and I would go as far as to say that in my public life, I've not let the mask slip quite so often recently as I have in the past. Hiding feelings, as I discussed in my last post, is one of those tropes of life, one of those things that have been turned into diverting little nuggets on the internet to share on Facebook. I'm tempted to alter that to say 'British' life, because a different cultural norm might not celebrate the fact that people are so reserved. The Trolls in Frozen go on about people making bad choices when they're mad or scared or stressed, and it's not a bad thing to keep in your mind. Being cross, or disappointed, frustrated, bored even, can all lead to the wrong bit of the brain being in charge at the time a decision is required. I read something about the Chimp brain being the emotional, uncontrolled bit. It doesn't really matter what name we put to it, or for that matter what the actual brain mechanism is (I don't recall being convinced by the brain science). What matters is the observation that sometimes a bit of us is in charge that makes dreadful decisions, ones that we look back on and go 'what on earth was I doing?'.
My memory, for whatever reason, stitches me up massively in a(ny) church. Not sure exactly why, because as a teenager I would have said with great confidence that it (Christianity) was all superstitious nonsense. Now I'm more measured, I hope. Christianity has a wonderful message of redemption, the taking all the forgiving power out of the hands of the wrongdoer except in so far as she repents of her sins, and a built-in inclusivity that comes from Jesus' own statements. Some versions of Christianity struggle with how to interpret that inclusivity. I don't subscribe to the metaphysical elements of the religion. But, as I find myself saying increasingly often, Jesus' message - which can be summed up in the five words 'be excellent to each other' - is one that I really do believe in. Why, then, should my brain have such a reaction to arched windows and old stonework? I don't know. I can say that I am drawn to churches, that I want to go inside, interact with the building, its tombs and its corners, its character as a thing. But no voice, even still, small and calm. Just my own thoughts.
Some people are affected by significant dates. As should be obvious, I am among that number. Some branches of the Church do a really good job of having something significant about every date, give-or-take, so you can find something to celebrate or commiserate on any day you care to. But there will always be some dates that have extra power, whether that be derived from grief, joy or something else entirely. Some folk are affected by smells (is a Madeleine a biscuit or a cake, I wonder, for VAT purposes?). Some are desperate to recreate or relive some memory, and will go all-out to do so. For me, the goal is to be able to live comfortably with my memory, rather than fight it all the time. To be able to visit the parts of it that can make me happy without that runaway train of thought that always leads to the sad, the guilty, the frightening, the regret at a missed opportunity, a word unsaid or a kindness left undone, or, worse, the weight of an embarrassing blunder, or a moment of cruelty inflicted on someone undeserving of it.
So, anyway, buy the books. And if you're not going to, listen instead to this lot:
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought