Sunday, May 15, 2005

Digging Up The Past

I have what’s called a selectographic memory. I can remember many things down to the most infinitesimal detail. But several of the difficult and hurtful events that happened are gone. Just gone. Like all of the hurt and anger was stashed away into a time capsule of sorts that I’m really only just now opening and rifling through. Oddly enough, hurt and anger keep pretty well. They’re as fresh as the day they were packaged. Maybe fresher.

Ordinarily, I hate packing. My anal retentiveness and packratiness conspire to make the night before every trip an ordeal. Outlining every scenario from plane crash to whirlwind romance and elopement, taking every single thing I could conceivably need, it all just makes me neurotic in a way that so few things are able to. Unpacking, on the other hand, is easy. I put the dirty clothes into the laundry bag and swear I’ll wash them before too long. I laugh at how overprepared I was as I return the clean clothes back to their respective drawers and hangers. Then I vow to pack more efficiently next time – a vow akin to the ever-famous "I swear I’ll never drink this much again." This process is much more enjoyable and natural for me: it’s simply putting everything back in its right place.

With this emotional time capsule business, however, just the opposite was true. That particular packing job was so easy I barely knew it was happening. In that case, packing left me footloose and fancy-free. It was the packing that came naturally. Much to the contrary, the unpacking is pure, fresh hell. While it’s still putting everything in its right place, where that is is hard to say exactly. There’s blame that has to be put on the shoulders of the appropriate guilty party, which turns out to be me more times than I would like to admit. There’s forgiveness and understanding that have to be put on top of the blame. There’s a lot of stuff that needs to be put in the trash and reforgotten. And, most things just need to be put in perspective. The problem with all of this is summed up in a quote, which I’ll dig up right now… Okay, here it is. Anne Porter says, "The past is never where you think you left it." Therein lies the problem.

Putting the stuff that comes out of your emotional baggage where it belongs is not nearly as easy as sorting the items from your regular baggage. As I’m doling out damnation and absolution, I often have a hard time remembering who did what to whom and why. It’s funny that so many things are too important to forget but not important enough to remember, all at the same time. So, there are all of these vague memories. Then, there are the vacant memories.

Just to make matters worse, the stuff I can remember clearly gets fuzzy, because now there are all of these motives and back-stories to consider. And, no longer blessed with the sweet myopia and egocentrism of youth, I actually care about why people do things, even when those things hurt me. So, when it’s all said and done, I’m left with all of these very real emotions hinged on memories that are real-esque, of debatable realness, or not real at all.

And that, too, is where I’ll leave you. I wish I could be more prescriptive, but I’m just working this stuff out myself. The only silver lining I’ve found so far is knowing that God is going through it with me and that I’ll come out of the ordeal a healthier, happier person. Just the same, I though that I would offer those of you who have yet to unearth or open your emotional time capsules a little spoiler. And to those of you who are busied with sorting through your capsules I offer the comfort in knowing that you are not alone. It sucks for everybody.

On Death & Dying [Repost]

I find it odd that death creates so many practical dilemmas. Sure it's a morbid observation, but death is like that sometimes. Sometimes it's cause for celebration (e.g., the death of the Wicked Witch of the West or the very sick old man with the really great corner unit in a rent-controlled building). And sometimes it's really sad (e.g., the death of Ronald Reagan, the parading of whose more-than-likely-corpseless coffin brought both local traffic and national television broadcasting to a screeching halt).

Why 'corpseless', you ask. Do you really think they'd tote a week-old dead body around the country for closed casket services? Plus, I don't know about the rest of the places the casket visited, but there were record high temperatures in DC that day. The soldiers in their wool ceremony uniforms and hats were dropping like flies from heat stroke and being carried away by the busload. Dead bodies and searing heat don't mix, at least not fragrantly. But, I digress.

Getting back to my point: although it can be joyous or sad, often death is just morbid, and it creates practical dilemmas for the living. It's a blessing in disguise, I suppose. By the time you finish an event planning ordeal rivaled only by the most lavish of weddings, make travel, lodging and feeding arrangements for scads of people, finagle bereavement leave from your job, sort through oceans of flowers and cards, and sort through crowds of well-meaning well-wishers and glory-seeking tragedy hounds, you barely have time to breathe, let alone process complex emotion.

I'm just saying death produces a logistical nightmare...and a lot of activity for a phenomenon traditionally associated with stillness.