I’m working on a memoir, so I live much of my life in the act of looking backward. And boy is my neck tired. Bah-dah-bum. Sorry, couldn’t resist.
Seriously though, I do accumulate a bit of tension from living in this state. My childhood before grammar school was fine, a bit isolated, a bit atypical for the late 1950s and early 1960s, but basically a bucolic time. But I spend a lot of time, effort and energy going back over my school days and early adulthood previous to try to understand why one thing was successful and another thing led to personal catastrophe. Decisions, chains of events, character traits, and family patterns all figure into the analysis I am doing in order to write about a difficult topic, successful and failed methods of coping, and how reframing differs from revisionist history.
When, in a Facebook Blogging Group to which I belong, Beth announced “retrospect” as the topic for group blogging this week I immediately began comparing what it is to engage in retrospect as opposed to what it is to reminisce, or to reflect.
Retrospect is a simple looking backward, it has no judgment implicit within it. Hindsight looks back over errors, reminiscing looks back with rose-colored glasses. And any remembering changes the memory that was a perception in the first place. It really does. I am not sure reflection involving the past can really exist. Any recollection adds a current lens to the event, no perception just mirrors an event. I’ve listened to lectures by brilliant neuroscientists about how memories are made, lost, retrieved, and re-visioned. Heisenberg abounds. And in my professional training I began to understand, though I will never fully understand, that every perception is a negotiated product. Memory is a perception of the biological, electrochemical, and neurophysiological etching, folds and pathways that past experience created in our brains and central nervous system. It is recursive.
So am I remembering real events? Yes. As much as any person can. But because memories change through time, I rely on patterns more than individual events. I am also lucky in that I am very visual and remember through images. It is called eidetic memory. While I don’t have a photographic memory in the way most people think of it, I do, apparently, make use of fairly high levels of eidetic imagery. And I am also lucky that I have been a writer most of my life. I have written so many poems, journal entries, letters, essays, articles, papers and more that most of the time, if I want to double check the validity of a memory, I often have something I have written from five, ten, or twenty years ago that touches on the event, so I have some means of comparison. Written records are one of the most amazing things we humans have ever created. I think I should print out my blog posts. I have print copies of everything else.
But now I’m wondering how retrospection relates to introspection and to circumspection? Oh geesh, it never ends… because it is recursive.