“The only wholly true thought one can hold about the past is that it’s not here.” A Course in Miracles, Lesson 8.
This may be an obsession unique to a writer, or perhaps it’s an old-person thing, but to write these chapters down, to tell these stories, finally, and then to fling them into a cyberspace archive leaves my mind blessedly free. I don’t have to remember the stories any longer; they are no longer the “material” of my writer’s life. They are quickly fading now; they’ve been told, flung, and forgotten. My mind’s obsession with remembering everything has released its hold. There is no need, now, to remember any of it.
I wonder how much of anyone’s eventful or painful past could be forgiven and erased if they could just tell their stories enough times, write their stories, place the chronicle of what they remember into a form where it could be recorded and not lost, so that they could walk away, released and relieved.
In the Hopi tradition, when someone in the tribe has experienced a wound, a tragedy, an injustice, that person is placed in the center of a circle. The tribe gathers round, the person tells their story in complete detail, takes as much time as they need, and everyone listens without comment. Then the person tells it again, from the beginning. And again, the whole story. After the third telling, the listeners in the circle turn their backs on the teller. This act signifies that the story is ended, over, need not be remembered.
I’m imagining a new service: Listener. What a service a volunteer could provide by inviting older people (or even younger people) to tell their stories, their memories, and simply listening. Sometimes the stories need to be told several times. Perhaps the Listener would need to say, “I will remember this story,” before it can be let go. The Listener becomes the archive, the cyberspace for the story, and it no longer need burden the teller’s mind. No doubt this is the service some therapists provide.
My mother wrote books and stories documenting different periods of her interesting life, until I thought she had written everything down. Every detail. But, no. In her last years, she frequently called me to tell me a fragment of something she remembered about her cousin, or her brother, or an event that happened when they lived in Jamestown. Or she would sing me a song—a long-lost song, every word remembered perfectly, all six or seven verses trilled in her sweet voice. She could no longer use a computer keyboard, or write with a pen, so I had become her archive. “I’ll remember that,” I always told her. Once archived, she could forget that fragment, or that song, and relax.
I am my mother’s daughter. Perhaps, flinging my stories into cyberspace now will mean my children won’t have to become my archives. Or perhaps…they will. Who knows?