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Wednesday, 21 October 2015 10:14

William Rivers Pitt | You Are Made by Your Memories … so Remember

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aaaBrain(Photo: A pyramidal neuron in the brain)OK, listen ... and please bear with me because I am quite literally writing this with two fingers because my hands hurt. No worries. I'm drunk on cool water and old memories. I'm too old for any of that other nonsense.

I am here to make a simple point. You - yes, you, even the teenagers I know are reading this because I am blessed with a broad spectrum of readers, which is the whole point of the enterprise - will reach a day, who knows when, but it it's out there lurking like a leopard, you will reach a day - and mark my words, this is gospel truth - when you know, not suspect, not fear, not wonder about, not imagine in the dark of your own personal night, I mean know - KNOW, in the horror of flat no-BS truth that there are more years behind you than ahead of you, and lost time is a roar in your ears, and you wince within the fiber of your being again, because you are a jerk, because you didn't appreciate all that this life gave you to the hilt, to the sinew and bone.

To the bone, friends.

I have the gift of photographic memory. My first and oldest friend can attest to this. I have said that one of the prizes you win as an only child is that you get to choose your brothers and sisters. He was my first brother, his family raised me as if I was one of their own, and I remember everything.

On the sadly rare occasions we meet up again, I unspool detailed stories about dark nights in very strange places. He always says the same thing - "How the (expletive) do you remember all that (expletive)?" - whenever I uncork a memory from the maintenance shed where his family rode out their winters, or the night I comforted him when I found him just before dawn weeping silently in the bathroom because he was the youngest of six, and was worried his aging parents were going to die. I held him that night, my dear brother, sitting on the toilet seat in a building that ceased to exist 30 years ago, and we went to his parents' funerals together in the fullness of time, but not before I stood Best Man at his wedding.

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... and when he or any of the others I have chosen to call my brothers and sisters ask how I remember all this mundane, lost, minuscule stuff, I always give the same reply: They matter. They are what makes the DNA of a life. They're weird. Best of all, they're absolutely true ... and I remember everything. It is my blessing. It is my curse. It Is.


This is my point: Remember. Everything that happens to you - for good and ill - makes you who you are. It forms you, and in the fullness of time, you form it. Experience is symbiotic. The least you can do is give it the earned gift of recognition. The impact will sort itself out.


I have embraced this theory where I actually adore the worst moments I have ever endured, and my brothers and sisters, I have taken some rides into corners of Hell that would have made Dante's quill say "Screw this" and take a job gifting flowers to nuns. Those moments made me, especially the worst ones. Remove even one, and I lose my wife and daughter and home, because my path has been changed, and who the hell knows where I might wind up. I don't frankly want to know. One less bruise in exchange for what I have now? I wouldn't make that trade for all the whiskey in Ireland.

This is all the honesty I have to offer, and it's yours to do with as you will. I have said for years that wisdom is the capacity and ability to tell the story of your scars: How you got them, where you got them, why you got them, and what you learned from them. I am littered with scars, not a few of which were self-inflicted. I can tell you, in triplicate, the story of them all.

That's life. That's all it is. I guess this whole article is entirely selfish. My 50th birthday is lurking not too far down the road, and I think I'm feeling my age. Whatever it is - age wistfulness, the pain in my back and hands, or just the simple truth that I got to read T.S. Eliot to my mother tonight - "Prufrock," her beloved father's favorite poem, and also "The Hollow Men" – has me in a mood.

... but I'm feeling the finger of fate upon me, as my brother Robert Penn Warren once said. It doesn't feel so good. That's what getting older is, I suppose.

I'm not going anywhere, no worries; my family has for a triad of generations been a hardy potato clan who came to this country on a floating door, and has worked for the common good since we found the shore. We live longer than most birch trees ... but then again, birch trees are beautiful and useful and long-enduring, but they do tend to snap when the February ice lays on too thick.

The ice isn't on me too thick. Won't be for a long budget.

But damn it all to Hell, this gettin' old stuff is for the birds.