The Nature of Memory

Memory is fluid. It evolves as we do, changes along with us. It is, by its nature, both truth and illusion.


I think one reason I started keeping a personal journal so many years ago is that I realized this to a certain degree. I knew that what we remember about any given event in our lives is selective, filtered by the current moment. If we are feeling good, optimistic, we may remember an event in a positive light, whereas if we are feeling down, anxious or depressed, we might remember that exact same event, but focus on elements that were not positive.

It’s not just a matter of current mood or focus, though. I think as we grow and evolve through our experiences, we can better appreciate the nuances of past events. Better understand why or how we faced those events.

Part of my original motivation (hey, I was 15 when I first started writing) was just to keep a record of events in my life. Those early journals are full of teen angst, major crushes, so many different ways in which my life moved here and there – but less about what I was truly feeling. It only later became a means of seeing how I had changed, and realizing that my memories, too, were sometimes different from what I wrote.

In skimming though a few past journals, all hand written, I may find myself reading something I wrote so many years ago, and realizing it is not a true representation of what I was feeling at the time. Sometimes, yes, but it’s interesting that I can pick out those moments that I was not being entirely truthful with myself.

An example, a big event in my life during my first marriage, something that affected me profoundly. I remember how devastated I was. I found an entry in that old journal where I wrote that I needed to be alone to assimilate what had happened. I began with a truth, a need, but then in the margins, I added a caveat, that yes, I wanted to be alone, but just away from people in general, not my then-husband, of course.

I can still remember, feel that moment when I wrote it in the margins. I knew it was false, I knew that what I really wanted was full solitude, not even my husband at my side. But a wisp of a thought then said to me, “what if he reads this one day, he’ll know you wanted to be alone” and so I added that little lie, thus editing my real feelings.


I realize I have always edited my personal journals to a degree, sometimes avoiding the deeper truths, worrying about what someone would think if they ever read them. What’s interesting is that I can pick out those moments of filtering now, these many years later.

Does it matter? Not really, it’s just interesting. Is my current memory the true one? It feels true, especially when specific words ring false in the old scripts. In those moments, it’s kind of like I am remembering as more than just me. It feels like having a dual consciousness, if that makes sense.

listeningI do specifically remember growing up with that sense of duality, feeling a separate presence within, always me, and my self, the watcher, ever present even to this day. I am the everyday “normal” me that lives her life, reacts to events, feels the feelings, etc., and then there is the me that observes, notices, makes internal comments – not through words, so much as through emotional remarks. Like long ago when I added the note on that entry about being alone – I was the one who wrote the addition, that was my everyday me – but at the same time, the observer in me was present, noticing, nudging me with the awareness of a falsehood, but not trying to change it, just allowing and observing.

I don’t think I am alone in my experiences, though possibly most people aren’t aware of their duality. (Or in some cases, multiple inner voices). Perhaps it comes from a vivid imagination, or perhaps that imagination is simply a direct product of this kind of awareness.

I know some people are intuitive, and they may hear inner “voices” that speak in feeling tones, guide them to take one direction instead of another, filter how they evolve. It’s similar to that, but perhaps a bit stronger I terms of presence. I have always been aware of that inner observer, always heard her voice whenever I made a choice or changed directions in my life. She has always been there as a kind of guide for me, and yet as often as I could hear/feel that guidance, it was never a constraint. I have always been free to choose, and in choosing, make good choices and sometimes seemingly bad ones.

Yes, even the bad choices were made while the observer watched patiently, knowing the choice might not be the best, but allowing it anyway. My “guide” never insisted or tried to turn me away from choice, for she knew that everything was good, right. Even those choices that had what seemed to be negative consequences, my guide could see the end result even as I made the choice, but I chose to act anyway, because I have learned from that guiding presence that all experience leads to growth.

As I look back within these pages and access the series of “Random Access Memories” I know there really isn’t much point in writing about or focusing on past events – the past is past, and memories are just reflections of who I am now. But it’s interesting to me, to see what I remember, to view some of those memories from the perspective of who I am now.

This presence that is part of who I am, this guide/observer, has always been here. It is my soul connection to who I am, and more. Because it goes beyond who I am, and connects me to all that is.

Hmm, maybe that is why I have always been comfortable with solitude. Because I am never truly alone. All is One and One is All.

And so it is.


2 responses

  1. Really interesting post Judee, I enjoyed reading it and can identify with much of what you have said. That sense of alter ego has been very strong in my own life, even to the point of moments of dissociation. Always nice to read a post from you.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Sandra. I’m not at all surprised that you can relate to this. 🙂

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