Lies! It’s nothing but a pack of (unintentional) lies

So, here I am over the last few days busily editing a manuscript that has lain fallow for too long. It has been an interesting endeavor to resurrect something that has been fermenting. The editing task has been enlightening in that it has opened up a lot of questions from me – about me.

You see, the piece is a reminiscence about what it was like to be growing up in my town in the historical period in which I grew up. You know you are getting old when you refer to your earlier life as an ‘historical period’. But, that’s what it is. It is the stuff of quaint retrospectives in films and TV shows, most of which (with the exception perhaps of the meticulously researched Mad Men) are grievously clichéd and inaccurate.

But, that’s not my point here. My point is, how accurate are our own memories of our own lives? It’s all about point-of-view. Is my elaboration of how I emotionally responded something that happened when I was age 5 reflective of what I felt when I was 5, or is it reflective of how the situation impacts me now at a much greater age?

In other words, was I the same person at 5 as I am now? Or, is this just some of that inner-child claptrap that was so trendy a while ago?

If I am still the same person as that inner child, doesn’t that mean I’m screwed? Doesn’t it mean the whole maturation process was kind of a waste since I am still a whimpering, simpering tot?

I’m telling Wendy about a particular incident in the book and I’m telling her how good it made me feel at the time. “Or, does it make you feel good now?” she asked. Maybe you felt different then. And maybe your memory isn’t at all accurate so you’ve colored it to suit who you are now?” 

Holy poop, I thought. That might mean that all reminiscences from anybody are a crock! Just a pack of swinish lies designed to mollify the ego of the writer. What to believe? 

She told me of an incident that put her point into realistic perspective. She cited it because she has an entirely different memory of the same incident than do I.

A few years ago we went on a Zodiac trip along the magnificent Napali coast on Kauai. The boat was crewed by two Hawaiian guys, an older and younger man.

“The way you tell the story, and I’ve heard you, is that the skipper was an older man, a rough-hewn old Hawaiian seafaring guy.”

Well yes, I thought. And so he was. 

“No he wasn’t,” she said. “He was a relatively young man, certainly considerably younger than you.”

Too many people are these days, I resignedly thought.

So, was I lying in telling that story? No, I wasn’t. From my point-of-view the trip was what I remembered. It was at odds with what she remembered.

So, all I can say is that if my book should ever be published and you should happen upon a copy, remember that all my disgusting lies are unintentional.

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11 responses to “Lies! It’s nothing but a pack of (unintentional) lies

  1. This sort of memory distortion happens all the time. For a start, many family stories that relatives like retelling get embellished over the years and it’s difficult to figure out what’s true and what’s not. My mother re-invents family history all the time to suit herself and look good in every episode.

    One little incident I remembered incorrectly but was so sure I was right: when I wrote about my local newspaper days I mentioned I’d gone to college and was driven there by a friend in a bright orange Volkswagen beetle. I was absolutely convinced of the colour of the car. He read the piece and informed me the car was navy blue. No, that’s not right surely? I thought, but it was his car. Some weeks later it dawned on me that some years earlier I’d travelled round France with a friend in a bright orange Morris van and somehow got the two vehicle stories tangled.

    Strange thing memory!

  2. I get that … and I’ve often read back my journals and have no memory of the thing I was writing about – multiple memories vs no memory, I must be getting old

  3. My first memory is of a yellow plastic boat with blue wheels that I absolutely loved. But is it really something I remember or was I told about it? Memories are always coloured by who we are now I think, by our point of view on it.

    Memories or lack thereof. Like Lulu, I once re-read an old journal from my teens which touched on my first boyfriend. Not only did I not remember his name, I didn’t even remember his existence. The guy? He obviously made a helluv an impression…

  4. it would be interesting to see what the current research on perception has to say regarding this…provocative post, as usual.

  5. Great insight. Now I’m wondering about many of my memories. And tell Jazz that boats don’t have wheels. Except in old memories I guess.

  6. First of all, how TOTALLY adorable are you in that picture? You’re a heart breaker.

    Now that that’s said, I often wonder the same thing. It is a sad thing but I spent so much time trying to forget my childhood that I really don’t remember the day to day things. Only the things that are incredibly painful or emotionally significant stand out. And, I’m not sure if my memories and perceptions of some of those things are 100 percent accurate.

    Can’t wait to read what you’re working on. I’m sure it will be fab.

  7. Since moving here my brother and I had the same experience a few times. His memories about some event often differ from mine. We view things from our own perspective which of course changes through the years – add a bit of memory loss and the story changes again. We were both amazed at our discrepancies after viewing old videos Dad often took of the same event – you can’t argue with a video. ..

  8. I get that false memory thing quite a lot, usually when I am in full flow telling some story of my childhood and my mother chips in ‘no it wasn’t’ or ‘no you didn’t’. I would put money on the truth of my memories but then I do distinctly remember seen Santa and his sleigh landing in our road when I was about 5……..

  9. What a cutie Ian! Oh, andyou were an adorable little boy too!
    As someone who is currently wading her way thought the series Lost, thinking about memories just makes my head spin. Great post! Much “food for thought” that’s for sure!

  10. Memory definitely is subjective. I love the photo you, how cute!

  11. Thanks to all of your for your comments on false memories. Thanks especially to those who mentioned my amazing adorableness as a little boy. Of course, I might add, false memories or not, I remain resolutely adorable.

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