The mind is an incredibly powerful little engine. When public figures or politicians "flip flop," there is a always a record of their past statements to prove their current change of heart, especially now in the digital age when every deed and action is captured for eternity. But in personal and family lore, memories of past events are harder to qualify. Every member of a family is almost assuredly affected by particular events uniquely, based on their own personality, place in the family (birth order) and their age when a particular event occurred, among other things. And years later, in recalling these events, there is almost always a powerful "rose colored" filter that limits our ability to truly remember. Maybe we choose to remember something a particular way because it suits our current situation or possibly because the memory was just too painful to remember the way it actually happened. Either way, the filter is most often times unconscious, and we truly believe our own recollections. The brain, and the heart, are our greatest protectors...
I am the middle child of three and I am still intrigued by how each of us individually recalls our family and our parents growing up. Some of our lore is obvious and agreed upon, both the events themselves, but also how each of us individually felt and reacted to these situations. And there are other events that we have just come to "agree to disagree" on, as our memories, or our assessment of those memories, just don't sync up. Either way, those different perspectives have also become part of the lore and over the years I've found it interesting to hear their thoughts, as they are most always thoughtful, intimate and often times remind me of things I've forgotten, forcing me to think about my own "filtering ability. " But recently, one of my siblings provided me a perspective on our parents that I found so the opposite of what my recollections were, that I had to call my other sibling for verification. Was it my memory that had so faltered? Had my own particular brand of rose colored lenses made me that blind? I got confirmation that my memories were in tact, but I still feel unsettled by it.
In my head, I know this information shouldn't affect me at all. It has truly nothing to do with me, now or then. But yet it does. And then it occurred
to me just how integral my siblings memories are to my own truths. We each have our own history and set of memories to rely on. But I'm finding that their memories have helped define my past as much as my own. As a family, we are intrinsically tied together
as a unit, but we're also made up of the uniqueness of the individual
relationships. The family I grew up with, and its dynamic, formed the foundation i was
built on, informing much about what i am and how i came to be, same as it is for most, i imagine. And although this particular "revelation" wasn't even directly about me, somehow
hearing that one piece of the puzzle, one of the relationships defining our whole, might be completely different than what my memories indicate, makes the foundation feel untrue, unstable. So then what of all the truths that have stemmed from that? I actually do believe my memory is correct on this one (naturally. but i did also get confirmation...). But that my sibling remembers it this way at all is just as upsetting as if it was really true. Somehow the belief alone alters the fabric of reality, as perspective can often times be more potent than truth.
I do know that none of this actually changes the past - my memory of it, or the truth as it was. But yet the past, especially when related to family, ultimately can, and does, creep into the current dynamic. And so on this day, when our family will be getting together to celebrate mother's day, i can't help but think about how important my siblings were in my life growing up, but also how important their perspective and memories are to my own history, and understanding of it. My memories are my own, as theirs are theirs. But somehow the collective unconscious of all three of our memories feels as relevant, powerful and influential as my own individual recollections .