I once asked Claude how she kept her jeans and tees so crisp and white. “I bleach the fuck out of them,” she said.
Claude is a brilliant artist with a great sense of humor, but of all our exchanges over after-school pick up, this is the one I remember.
I don’t know if Claude remembers telling me this and even if she does, I doubt that this is the conversation she would say stayed with her. Of course, I don’t know that for sure, I’d have to check with her to get her side of it.
Which is exactly my point.
Even in a conversation among two people there is no single truth about what was discussed or exchanged. There’s what I got and what you got and at best, we both got something out of it. Either way, we walk away alone, each of us with the bits that we remember, the parts that felt meaningful, the points that touched our hearts. That doesn’t mean that any of it occurred for the other person. The shared experience occurred for us both – but that individual experience – is all in your head.
It’s all in your head because you’re the curator of those conversations, the narrator of the experiences, the editor of what you keep, what you share and what you forget. So that, by the time Claude and I meet again, our conversations as a whole, will have been forgotten. All that will be left are the parts that we saved. The bits that were funny or meaningful (or incredibly useful). And even those may become altered with time, updated or enhanced. Met with a ‘What?! No! That’s not what I said!’ Which is why you can’t trust your memory (and why, according to the law, eyewitness testimony is based on the best recollection of events perceived).
In which case, what is true about the memories of your life? How much is factual and how much is story? And, within that story, how do you portray yourself? Are you a better, prettier, more successful version of you than you are today? Are you someone who made bad choices which your current self is now paying for? Are you someone who was happier than you are now? Are you someone who had more potential than what you’ve achieved? Are you someone who should have been doing something else, but missed out on your purpose or messed up on your relationship?
What you share about your life are the pieces you remember, some more vibrant, others toned down, others completely faded. These pieces become the story of your life. So consider paying attention to how you tell the story of your life. Maybe fact-checking with siblings or old friends, the keepers of our history. See if you can soften the stories where you come out a bit harsh, rejuvenate the ones where you’ve played yourself down, and retell the ones where you are the star.
As for the ones best left forgotten, take Claude’s advice – and bleach the fuck out of them.