Tag Archives: Autobiographical memory

The False Memories

brain-memory

And there she was.

My gorgeous ex-wife, on the floor with our son, doting over something he’d put together.

“Hey mom! Look at this!”

So excited, my little five-year-old.

He was smiling. She was smiling. I was smiling.

It felt good—having us all together.

Later, there was dinner. The usual chit-chat. Just like it used to be.

At night, with our son sound asleep, we curled up next to one another on the couch. It didn’t feel foreign. Just the same as it ever was. Like a time warp.

Not like when it was bad. Like when it was good.

The sitting became holding.

The holding became touching.

The touching became kissing.

The kissing became sex.

And I liked it.

Whoa.

We Don’t Remember Everything

You see it when investigators question eye witnesses.

People remember men of different heights. Wearing different color shirts. Driving different types of cars.

In some instances, it’s because we smoked too much pot in college. I always joke that that’s my problem when I exhibit forgetfulness.

But this isn’t about remembering someone’s birthday, or to run that errand, or that you have a test at school tomorrow, or whatever.

It’s about memories you feel certain about. Sometimes they’re wrong.

Researchers proved this by interviewing people with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory—you know—the kind of people who remember what they had for breakfast and what song was playing on their drive to work on some arbitrary date 15 years ago.

Even THEY get it wrong—human beings with the most-gifted and powerful memories on Earth. Things they are really sure about, too.

There was a fascinating piece in The Atlantic last month about it. One of the memory researchers quoted in the article said that all memories are colored by bits of life experience.

“When people recall, they are reconstructing,” the professor said. “It doesn’t mean it’s totally false. It means that they’re telling a story about themselves and they’re integrating things they really do remember in detail, with things that are generally true.”

I was fascinated.

It relates to the stories I tell on this blog.

It relates to my memories from my marriage. Were the good times as good as I remember? Were the bad times as bad?

It relates to my ex-wife’s memories about our marriage.

As writers, I think we owe it to anyone reading to be as honest as possible. When telling old stories, we risk getting things wrong. I am committed to getting it as close to the truth as my brain is capable of delivering.

But I am, inevitably, fallible and mistake-prone.

That affects my work here. That affects my human relationships.

And it affects my subconscious.

What Dreams May Come

I don’t remember dreams very much anymore. Most of my life, I’ve woke up in the middle of the night or in the morning on the heels of some pretty vivid dreams.

I remember the frightening ones.

I remember the sad ones.

I remember the sex-laden ones.

They actually have an effect on me. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically.

My dream about my ex-wife in the early morning hours today was shocking to me.

It was the first time I’d had any sort of dream like that about her.

I wish I knew what it meant—that it didn’t feel bizarre. That I liked that she liked me. That it all felt, just, happy.

But I don’t get too caught up in the specifics. Especially when it comes to dreams.

It’s probably weirder that I hadn’t dreamed about my ex-wife up to this point than it is weird that I did this morning.

Dream interpretation is almost never literal.

My subconscious, like my totally conscious self, probably just likes human connection.

It’s not that fun sitting around by myself all the time when my son isn’t home.

It’s not that fun never having sex with anyone. Ever.

It’s not that fun cooking for one and eating alone.

I woke up.

No one was in bed with me. My room was still disheveled. My life still kind of sucked.

I opened the blinds.

No birds chirping.

Just a bunch of snow. A bunch of gray. A bunch of cold.

The winter of my discontent.

Perhaps Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) in Groundhog Day said it best: “I’ll give you a winter prediction: It’s gonna be cold. It’s gonna be gray. And it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.”

But then my son ran in.

And I’m apparently “the best dad in all of the Americas,” as he’s learned that Central and South America are places, too.

I love you, son.

I got a blog-comment notification on my phone. Someone said something ridiculously kind about my writing.

That always makes me feel good.

Thank you.

My mother is visiting today until the weekend. To see her grandson. To help make her sad son’s holiday just a little brighter.

Thank you, mom.

I read a blog post. A gorgeous, smart, hilarious young woman watches and listens as her friends are always being chased by men, but she feels like the perpetual bridesmaid.

It’s not just me.

It’s never just me. And it is always us. All of us.

Battling sadness, anger, fear, stress, shame. Together.

I’m not alone.

You’re not alone.

Let’s never forget it.

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