The Memory Reel

What sort of role do memories play in your life? How much time do you spend thinking about the past versus the present? And, the time you do devote to remembering, how accurate do you think those recollections are?


Memories are funny things—they can give us tremendous pleasure or entrap us in a web of misery—they’re selective and, more often than not, somewhat inaccurate. We’ve editorialized them to suit our purposes: I was insulted, I was adored, I was the champion, I was the traitor or the victim. Back then, I had everything I wanted. Is this the case?  Our personal narratives satisfy a deep-seated need to complete the picture we wish to paint, to finish the film we now direct. It’s our private, personal memory reel, the sanctity of which is not to be trivialized. But, how much of it is real? There are the facts of what happened, and then there is the symbolism which we supply.


It’s no small challenge to be actor, director, screenwriter,  and audience, simultaneously, but this is precisely what we’re doing when we rerun our memories. Because we’re playing so many roles, we tend to get distracted and, perhaps, miss key pieces of action that impact our liturgical drama but which would inconvenience the allegory we’ve selected. Our plot points support our leading premise of hero, villain, victim, fill-in-the-blank.  He was a bastard who took what was rightfully mine. I am an innocent lamb and my temper is irrelevant because I meant well. The fact that I strayed is completely my fault and reflects nothing about my marriage. My professional success and fame reflect everything about how wonderful I am and I deserve all the credit.


What’s included in your Top Ten List of favorite memories? Why do you think you replay them so often? Are they moments of perceived glory? pleasure? failure? guilt? or, that oh so seductive genre—the things that might have been? This last group is the most vulnerable to alteration. Once we step into that wistful world, we forget where we are; these particular memory reels play longest and have the most poignant scripts. At least, that is my experience; what about you?


Where things get tricky is when we replay our fictionalized accounts so often that we believe they’re real. I’ve had up close and personal acquaintance with a wide variety of people who fabricate plot lines and narratives so far from the truth that I had a difficult time believing they were serious, but by that point it was too late. These actor/director/screenwriters seized upon these reels and dedicated themselves to persuading any who would listen that these were truth incarnate.


So, I ask you: where are you peddling your own fictionalized account of what happened? Why do you fixate on this particular storyline? What need does this satisfy? In your memory, do you portray a particular person as an unrepentant villain? Are you the flawless beauty queen or champion athlete? Is there only one possible explanation for what really happened between the two of you? Are you, perhaps, leaving bits of the story scattered across the cutting room floor?


As re-booters, part of our journey is to overcome those highly partisan elements of our egos and memories; we strive to substitute soft-focus shots with angles that tell a more accurate story. Look, we all do this! It’s a lesson everyone needs to master, but few are willing to tackle such hard work. As your homework assignment, I’d like you to take a single memory that you enjoy nursing and ask yourself what you get out of it: is it a sense of acceptance? Validation of some secret theory about yourself? Proof that he or she is as much of a jerk as you condemn them to be? What is it that you get from these reruns? How does your reel play out? If the other actors saw this clip would they agree with you?


Re-booting requires so much of us. We wouldn’t be doing it if we weren’t trying to correct some of those things we got wrong, so clearing out our film lockers is just another part of the process.




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2 Responses to “The Memory Reel”

  1. Jim Patterson Says:

    Good one

    Sent from mobile carrier


  2. Deborah Says:

    Wow, this one struck very close to home. I love the concept of developing a soft focus. I’ll be working on this. XO

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