Forget Me Not

Memory is an interesting and strange phenomenon. I think (as most of us do) that what I remember is more or less what happened. This came home to me a number of years ago when I was dating a woman I had dated twenty years previously and whom I had not seen in the intervening period. We ‘connected’ like old friends and more or less fell into the kind of comfortable conversation that old friends do. As we began to recall our earlier relationship (which was pretty intense and lasted for more than a year), our stories diverged immensely.

I have always prided myself on my memory. Other than occasional journaling and this blog, I have not spent a lot of time writing down my thoughts or experiences. Now I wish I had kept a diary just for the interest value it might have when comparing the written record with my recollections.

For example, at one point, she asked if I remembered our trip to Las Vegas. In fact, I didn’t remember and after some prompting what I did recall was very different than her memories. Likewise, I had remembered romantic evenings and long walks that were totally absent for her recollection. It made me wonder how much of our life’s experience simply evaporates over time or disappears through the filter of selective memory.

I have also had the experience a couple of times of playing a major part in the building of an organization and then, after being absent from it for a number of years, going back and realizing that I wasn’t featured in the ‘corporate memory’ at all or was perhaps given only a footnote or two.

It is humbling to see how fragile and short-lived our roles and participation in life can be. The ‘truth’ of what happens in our lives is what we say happened—which can vary substantially from the facts at the moment. If ‘reality’ is an interpretation, as I believe it is, then so is the past. I suppose historians know this: they work with the verity of the adage that it is the ‘winners’ who write the history of the world. And so it goes.

I wonder what would happen if we wrote the history of the world for the next 20 years or so—say from 2007 to 2027—today. In 2027, how would we want it to be? If we figured this out now, we could write how it happened. We could, like Merlin the Magician, live from the future and do all those things we did to arrive where we are in 2027, but with intention and the wisdom of someone who was already there.

Using the same principle, what if we designed the end of our life now and then had our life plan be written from the future? We could create the story of how we achieved what we did rather than be limited by some thin, forward-looking speculation of what we need to do or overcome to get ‘there’. Imagine having as much possibility at the end of our lives as we had at the beginning. Why not? After all, life (and memory) is just a story. Write your life the way you want it. Remember it the way you want it to be. At the end of the day, that is the way it is anyway.