This popped up on my Twitter feed today. I know it's a reference to I Corinthians 13. Some of you may even be surprised to learn that the "Love is patient, love is kind..." passage was read at my wedding. DH and I chose it, when we got married in an actual church. (No. No lightning strikes, thank you very much.)
This "record of wrongs" has been a point of contention, as of late. Okay, so by "late" I mean for the last twenty years. I can't help it; I just have a great memory.
I can remember details, both large and small, about almost anything and everything. I know who gave me certain books, what clothes I wore for which grade-level school pictures, and exactly where I was standing or sitting or laying when specific life events happened. I can tell you exactly where I was and who I was with the first time I heard half the songs on my iPod. I recently went through a couple of giant boxes of Barbies to dole them out to the daughters of friends, and I could remember who gave me which dresses, which Christmas I got the bubble bath that I never actually used, and even who gave me which Malibu Barbie for my sixth birthday--the two being only distinguishable because the fake tan was partially scratched on the shoulder of one. (The scratched one came from Wes Smith, if you must know.)
The list goes on and on. There's so much minutiae crammed into this purple-streaked head that I'm surprised sometimes that there's room to fit any useful stuff.
The problem, if you want to call it that, is that I also remember the bad stuff. I remember sights and sounds related to traumatic events from my early childhood. I remember exactly what was happening when I got each of the calls that my grandfathers had died. I remember, in extreme detail, how a little piece of the ring DH bought me for our first Christmas broke off, the day he and I had our first fight in 1993. (I took it immediately as a bad omen and stopped wearing the ring. I wasn't letting that cosmic lesson go unlearned.)
That also means I remember all the things that people do that make me unhappy, for whatever reason. Every little slight, every perceived betrayal, every stab in the back--it's all here. It's like a laundry list of infractions sometimes. I don't mean for it to be that way; it just is.
DH has accused me more than once of saving them up and dragging them out into the light when it's time to fight. He's totally insane and totally right at the same time. I don't intentionally have a list of grievances that I keep in reserve, waiting until just the right moment to spring them on him. (Or you, if you're so special as to be on my No Fly List.) But I do always have a running tally of issues that went unresolved, for whatever reason. Until they've been addressed and confronted, I can't let them go. I just can't, physically. It's almost pathological.
So what is it about memories that are important? They're the recounting of who you are, good and bad, past and present. They can even give a little insight into who you will become. [Yes, I know those should both be 'whom', but it sounds funny, even on paper.] We use our memories to make ourselves.
When she first gets to Wonderland (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), Alice is convinced she must have changed somehow, must no longer be Alice. She assumes that, because she can't remember who she is, she must be someone else. She meets the Blue Caterpillar (Oh, Absolem!), who questions her about who she is and challenges her to remember who she was.
For some minutes it puffed away without speaking, but at last it unfolded its arms, took the hookah out of its mouth again, and said, "So you think you're changed, do you?"
"I'm afraid I am, sir," said Alice; "I can't remember things as I used--and I don't keep the same size for ten minutes together!"
"Can't remember WHAT things?" said the Caterpillar.
"Well, I've tried to say 'HOW DOTH THE LITTLE BUSY BEE,' but it all came different!" Alice replied in a very melancholy voice.
Alice can't remember who she was, so she can't remember who she is. She has no personal context to draw upon and define herself, whether in relation to Alice or to anyone else.
Henri Bergson believed there were two kinds of memories: memories of habit and memories of personal events. He asserted that when a person commits a memory to habit (multiplication tables, for example), the memory becomes impersonal. But when the memory of how the habit was learned (the rhythmic droning of the multiplication tables in fourth grade math class), it becomes a matter of remembering the self, at least from the personal perspective.
That's the other thing about memories: they're highly subjective. Everyone has moments they recall with astonishing clarity, only to find that someone else remembers them completely differently. Personal perspective--dependant on physical locale and limitations, emotional state, and prejudices defined by previous experience--are highly influential on both the original imprints of incident and on their later recollection.
I realize that sometimes my recollections of events are totally tainted by own perceptions. Sobriety, emotional condition, etc., all directly impact how I remember an event. And sometimes, it's just easiest to remember something the way I want to remember it. Maybe it's a coping mechanism, making an event seem more palatable.
The real problem is when the not-forgetting becomes detrimental, whether to me or to my relationship with someone. DH is right that I tend to save these things up until the most heated, inopportune time. But when is the right time to bring up hurt? When is the appropriate time to tell someone, "Hey, do you remember that time you were a total ass to me? And you never apologized or told me why? Well, that's still bugging the shit out of me--can we talk about that during the next commercial break?"
I'm trying hard to be cognizant of those things that bother me and let him know when an issue is in imminent danger of becoming a weapon of future destruction. But I don't always see it coming. I may not realize how much something bothered me until it's too late, until I'm worked up about something else.
And sometimes it feels inappropriately good to lash out, to dole out the sucker punch, especially when I'm defensive and in danger of losing the argument. This is where my perception and misconception of a memory can be twisted to satisfy my ulterior motive.
I explained to DH recently that I had been working hard to confront my ghosts and let them go, including some issues that had been long-standing between us. I was surprised to learn that I was the only one who'd been rattling the chains binding me to them. DH didn't even realize there'd ever been a ghostly memory, let alone battled to look at us through the vaporous remnants.
Sadly, when confronted, my first instinct was to defend myself by listing all the grievances I'd forgiven and forgotten. The memories are there, always, but the emotional import I place upon them is pliable and transient. I can re-examine them from a new perspective and see if they're better suited to being a memory of personal event, or a memory of habit.
Love may not keep a record of wrongs, but hurt does. Hurt is rude and self-seeking, certainly. The best we can hope for is that love finds a way to quiet the hurt, to calm its proud, angry nature, and find a way to always trust, always hope, and always persevere.