We each look into a mirror each morning as we wash our faces or brush our teeth. It’s a habit we don’t think about. We go about our day, taking the odd glance at windows—a glance at our profile as we walk along the street or into our workplace.
When we take a moment to sit, calm and quiet, our vision turns inward to reflect on memories or thoughts that have gone before. Emotions rise to the surface. Images flash and roll across the mind’s movie screen. We get lost for that short time span in another place and another skin.
That skin is the one we wore at the time of that memory. Yet that skin doesn’t exist anymore. It’s gone.
In its place is new person—a person who’s experienced more of the world and themselves. We cling to the old skin like a hunter trying to refill a pelt with the original living animal, while wondering why we can’t reassemble all the parts. In the end, like the hunter, we must sigh and put away the memory.
Unlike that animal pelt, humans don’t give up trying to reassemble that person from memory. We continue to revisit that skin each day.
Some say that we fear losing an integral part of ourselves. Others posit that habit has ingrained an emotional association with an event memory to the point where it cannot be overridden. As with all theories and hypotheses, both statements seem to hold truth.
I read an interesting item in psychology news a few weeks ago, which addresses this subject. The gist was this.
Tiny details have shifted from the original memory each time we drag it to the surface for review. It’s a phenomenon that’s been known for a long time. An item’s color might still be red, but the hue or shade of that color has changed.
When someone recalls dialogue from a memory, it cannot be an accurate verbatim retelling, unless the storyteller possesses an eidetic memory. We aren’t aware that the details aren’t the same. We don’t think about it. We don’t care if each word is accurate. We’re more interested, I think, in whether the flavor and context of the remembered conversation reflects the actual one.
What does all of this have to do with standing in front of the mirror each morning? It has to do with how we see ourselves and our place in the world. We cannot see ourselves as others do, for we know our pasts, with few exceptions. We know where we’ve been and how we appeared to ourselves then.
I see myself as a trapeze artist at the age of eight, hanging by my heels from the top rail of the swing set. My arms hung toward the ground. Blood pounded in head. All I felt was exhilaration. I hadn’t fallen. I had accomplished something spectacular.
I see myself in the seventh grade, turning down a date invitation from a high school freshman to attend a dance. I knew I couldn’t accept. My folks would never have allowed it. Flattery like that from an admired older peer remains with a person to bring a smile to the lips years later.
In the vagueness of my bathroom mirror stands a woman in her senior years, heavier and grayer. I see her in today’s reality, but I compare her to the one who rode sleek horses on mountain trails, the one who jumped into inner tubes and rode the white water, or the one who stood beside her niece, at the delivery of my first great-nephew . I see the one who plucks memories like ripe plums to use for motivation in my day.
I see my spirit, which is much more important to me now than accuracy of detail or the reflection looking back at me from a foggy bathroom mirror.
- Perception vs reality, the telephone game, and eidetic memory (myhealingwalkwithgod.wordpress.com)
- Photographic Memory? Not Anymore (knsisson.wordpress.com)
- With Me At Sea (mtww1991.wordpress.com)
- Analysis on Memento (sangmin4105.wordpress.com)