One of the many features of my head injury is an inconsistent and unreliable memory. If my memory failed me all the time, I could make wholesale changes to accomodate it, and likely adjust fairly well. If I forgot all things regularly, I could at least count on it, and account for it. Instead, I recall certain things accurately and with great detail, but lose other things just as easily – there seems to be no rhyme nor reason to it. I consider that my optimistic disposition somehow determines what sticks and what doesn’t. For example, I look back on my time in the hospital with warm nostalgia, subtly downplaying the anguish, misery, and pain that filled most of each day. Recognizing my selective memory, however, allows me to counter this tendency, with a greater awareness and ability to remember things as they actually were.
At the end of any significant relationship, the common and irresistible urge is to bring to mind the good times – the laughter, the support, the excitement shared throughout – and mourn their absence. This was certainly the case with me, and for good reason – these elements afforded Anya and me a constant sense of joy. Furthermore, the dramatic gains I made in my recovery while in relationship, the victories I am most proud of, which we enjoyed together, were only possible because of the relationship. It’s no stretch to say that I would not be where I am today had I not been married to Anya. This perspective has dominated my thinking, and it derserves a rightful place of honour in my mind. However, to accurately recall the reality of us, I do have to acknowledge the less savoury dynamics as well – a potentially sad, albeit necessary, practice.
It makes sense to avoid thinking about the messy moments, the damaging dynamics, and problematic patterns. After all, the pain and remorse of ending a relationship is hard enough without calling to mind the stresses felt during the relationship – why douse the former flame? But this evasive mindset does no one any favours, and stunts any healing or growth that might be had. Of equal note, obsessing on the negative aspects can lead to resentment, a bitter vilification of the other, and finally, a desire to exact revenge – a most tragic outcome indeed. It’s plain to see, then, that a balanced recollection is vital to processing past events (whether hospital stays or relationships) in a healthy and productive manner. The key to doing so, in my experience, is recognizing which aspects naturally come to mind, and actively noting their counterparts.
This past week, circumstances were such that the work of recalling the dysfunctional aspects was unexpectedly done for me. The specifics are of no consequence and I will continue to staunchly oppose anyone who casts Anya or me as the antagonist in this story. That is all beside the point anyway. The significance is not what balanced my perspective, but that a more balanced perspective was established. Why is this so important? Why go through the exhausting work of honestly analyzing and seeing past trauma in a balanced way? Because a balanced and honest memory makes me a more balanced and honest individual moving forward from here.
If I gloss over the troubled times and harmful habits, I am not taking responsibility for my part in them and, by my count, I was responsible for at least 50% of each and every one. By humbly assessing the destructive dynamics, I can sleuth out the insecurity, fear, and pride that led to my contribution in each instance. If I don’t, I’ve missed a valuable opportunity to better myself, and that’s not my style. Exaggerating relational shortcomings, however, will have equally dire consequences, leaving me with a diminished self-image, a bloated burden of responsibility for the relationship’s demise, and a fractured sense of character. So far, I have experienced both, but I’m rapidly honing in on an accurate recollection of events, a balanced view of myself moving forward from here, and I really, really like it.