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Oh You Fickle Memory

mountain stream

Copyright by WyoJones. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Memory is so funny.

And so unreliable.

It’s not just an age thing. Okay, I don’t know that. It could be an age thing, but even before I got old, what I remembered didn’t always mesh with the people around me.

For instance, there is this Legendary Family Story about the day my brother shot a whole in the ceiling of the family room.

In my memory, I was in the room when it happened, holding my baby brother on my lap. It’s very sharp, very clear inside my head. I remember the bang of his rifle. That moment of terror, fearing to look around. The cries of alarm. Running running footsteps from all corners of the house…

Lots of consternation and recrimination…

And my mom remembers it completely differently.

In her memory, I’m not even in the room.

My sister refuses to admit what she remembers. Lol

How can we have such completely different memories?

I know it happens. You read about wildly different witness accounts after a crime, but it feels so weird to realize that two people can have such different memories of a single event.

(If my mom were alive to see this blog post, she would tell you that she was right. But the thing about memories, there isn’t a clear-cut wrong or right. This isn’t a moral issue. It’s about perspective and point-of-view. It’s about how we perceive the world through our own eyes.)

“Where ever I take my eyes, they always see things from my point of view.” Unknown

When we really truly are able to process this simple truth — that two people can look at the exact same thing and see different things, or come to different conclusions about that thing — it can raise our interactions with people to a better level.

We don’t have to take it “personally” when someone disagrees with us, for instance. We might feel to our toenails that they are wrong, but if we can understand that they are seeing something we aren’t, we can stop feeling personally affronted.

What they see is as real to them as your reality. It’s just as right–from their point of view. 

Even more important, is recognizing that we don’t have the right to require others to see our point of view. We can invite, we can share what we see—but we can’t force someone to see anything through our eyes. They will always see the world through their eyes.

When my mom and I were, um, not agreeing over what happened that day  — I realized that it didn’t really matter who was doing what. What mattered is that I love my mom.

If you try to impose your “right” on someone else, it will damage your relationship with them. Is being right more important than that? Ever?

I don’t think so.

If we respect people’s space — including their memories and their perception of events — we build bridges that go both ways. 

They can learn from us.

We can learn from them.

But I can tell you, that no one learns anything by force, coercion, or when they don’t feel respected.

And if we never agree? That’s okay. We don’t all have to agree. The sun will keep shining. The Earth will keep orbiting. Life will go on.

It’s amazing how that works.

What about you? Have you ever realized that someone has a completely different memory than you? Ever been learned anything from being yelled at?

I love comments so much that I pick a favorite to receive my monthly AnaBanana gift basket ($25 value).  (And don’t forget that once a quarter I’ll be tossing in something fun from the Perilously Fun Shop!) Recipient is announced the first blog post of the new month.

Perilously yours,

Pauline

Spy Who Kissed Me cover art