Posts Tagged ‘Memories’

By Justine Stamper, RMU Student.

Do you know how songs, paintings, or poems can take you back to a place in time or make stevieyou think of a special person? The song “Dreams” by Stevie Nicks, Monet’s “Water Lilies”, and the poem“Comes the Dawn” by Veronica Shoffstall evoke monetfond memories of my friend Fawn. I’ll never forget her impact on my wonder years. I carry it with me to this day; Fawn showed me my dawn.

Growing up, my best friend Chrissy and I had a babysitter, Fawn. She was a senior in high school while we were barely in the sixth grade. Her long blonde hair, minimal makeup, sweet disposition, and laid back approach to life signified her hippie chick lifestyle. Her looks and persona were reminiscent of Stevie Nicks. As a bonus she had a good looking boyfriend who sang in a band, and they would take us anywhere we wanted to go. They were the epitome of cool.

Those summers were spent driving around in a station wagon singing along to the radio blaring, playing miniature golf, or tooling around the Brickyard Mall. Dinner was usually fawn-seth-amandaTaco Bell, where we’d always order Burrito Supremes with extra sour cream. Or Gene and Jude’s for rubber dogs (yes, that’s what they call their hot dogs!)

As I became a teenager, Fawn became less of a babysitter and more of an older sister. As I was growing up, so was Fawn. She became a mother and had gone through losing the love of her life. These losses and challenges made her even more of an old soul.

I would stay with her and her children in her small bohemian apartment, adorned with beaded entryways, dream-catchers, Monet paintings and the smell of incense mixed withfawn cannabis. She gave me solid advice during breakups with my first boyfriend. While we mulled over the dirty details of the breakup, she played Bob Dylan’s, Positively 4th Street.

To further solidify her place as my mentor, she gave me a poem with a heart, cross and an infinity symbol drawn on it. The poem was “Comes the Dawn” by Veronica Shoffstall; it read… “After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul and you learn that love doesn’t mean possession and company doesn’t mean security. And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts and presents aren’t promises
. And you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes ahead
. With chrissy-ithe grace of an adult not the grief of a child. 
And you learn to build your roads on today
. Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans and futures have ways of falling down in mid­flight.
 After awhile you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much. 
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And you learn that you really can endure that you really are strong. 
And you really do have worth. 
And you learn and you learn… with every goodbye you learn.”

As the years went by, I remained in touch with Fawn through occasional visits, and now through Facebook. I want to take my daughter to meet her; I’m sure Fawn will get a glimpse of our younger days when she sees my “mini-­me.” I appreciate the advice and support Fawn gave to me. I would love for her to share her life lessons with my daughter; after all it’s my daughter’s dawn now.

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By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

(Go here to read Part 1.)

What if memories could be selectively erased?

BrainScientifically speaking, that may be possible. Our brains already work to push away bad memories through substitution and suppression. Also, some studies claim that therapy may make it possible to (sort of) erase memories.

While the literal science/psychology is interesting, I’m more interested in the hypothetical “What if?” scenario.

In film, TV, and literature, there are plenty of stories in which characters are presented the option of erasing bad memories. My favorite example of this, which is also one of my favorite movies, is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In this film, the main character Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) both undergo a fictional procedure to erase their minds of each other after their break-up.

Eternal Sunshine

Joel (Jim Carrey) undergoing the mind-erasing procedure in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

It is a fantastic movie for a number of reasons, one if which is how it spurs on self-reflection: if this procedure were real, would you use it? If so, on what memories? And why?

My personal answer to this question is…I don’t know.

I know, quite the cop out. But let me explain.

If I address that question specifically about relationships, the degree to which I’d be willing to pull the trigger on the procedure varies from relationship to relationship. In my fairytale breakup, I have no need to erase anything. Time already erased the bad and left behind the good memories. In other relationships, there was nothing traumatic done to me that requires erasing. And yet, in other relationships there are memories that bother me quite a bit, even long after the fact.

The question becomes this: if a memory bothers me a lot, what else would I lose by erasing it?

Would erasing that memory skew my entire perspective on the relationship? Would this change fundamentally who I am and have become? Would there be mistakes I am then doomed to repeat because I don’t have this knowledge anymore?

In other words, bad memories may be beneficial and productive in some cases.

However, the level of drama (and trauma) I’ve dealt with in relationships is peanuts compared to issues many people have dealt with. For example, let’s move away from romantic relationships.

Every week, my dad and I do volunteer work at his VFW post. He is a Vietnam vet, and members from the post range from World War 2 to current conflicts. Most of the members I know are my dad’s age and fought in Vietnam. Some of them suffer from PTSD and have gone through therapy to deal with the horrible things they experienced. Some have told me a portion of what they went through and saw, and I can’t even begin to imagine having been in their shoes.

From the outside looking in, having never been  soldier myself, I wonder if they wouldn’t prefer to snap their fingers and have all of those memories wiped away. On the other hand, I’ve listened to so many of their war stories, and I’ve listened to them all banter about the good and bad memories of serving, and it is clear that these aren’t just memories; this is a part of their identity. These shared experiences are also what creates the camaraderie between all of the veterans.  If these memories were taken away, would it be like taking themselves away?

So, the questions may become this: at what point does the “productivity” of traumatic memories get outweighed by their negativity? When does the memory stop being a tool to learn from and start cluttering our mind to the point of being a roadblock? When does the memory stop being a piece of our identity and start consuming us?

 

The only real conclusion I can come to is that these are such personal questions that are impacted by our own variables: our own personalities, how we deal with memories, how we deal with trauma. The question of erasing memories begs for a unique answer from all of us.

So, what’s your unique answer? If you could erase some of your memories, would you do it?

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

I sat in my car looking out through the chain-link fence that separated the student parking lot from the university’s airfield. A small plane came in low overhead, cutting through the spring air to land on the runway. The first time I saw this happen LU Planesthree years earlier, it seemed exciting and vaguely dangerous. But after a few years of attending a college with an Aviation major, the planes were like pigeons I could mindlessly stare at from a park bench while thinking.

I just got off the phone with a girl from one of my classes with whom I’d gone on a couple dates. I asked if she wanted to get together again, and I got the “I’d love to but I’m busy between now and…forever” brush-off. Truthfully, I wasn’t all that interested in her. She was my attempt at a rebound, but the rebound just dropped out of bounds.

This left me time to think about the relationship I was trying to rebound from, which was the two-years I spent with my “first true love” that ended a few months earlier on Christmas Eve, when she came over to give me my Christmas present and say goodbye. I hid that present in my closet for months without opening it, as if preserving it would keep the relationship alive in some small way. When I finally opened it, it was a t-shirt of Grumpy from Snow White. Any friends and students reading this may think, “Grumpy? That doesn’t seem accurate for Paul’s personality.” Meanwhile, any ex-girlfriend reading this is saying, “Ha!”

Sitting in the car, feeling desperate and lost, I called my only brother. I had never turned to him for relationship advice before, even though he is nearly nine years my elder. Our conversations always stayed within certain boundaries: movies, music, games, sports. This was uncharted territory for us.

I spewed to him everything that was stirring around in my whiney, youthful, achey-breaky heart, about how she was “the one” and how I would never recover from all the pain I was feeling. He listened attentively (rare for him) and then said something rather perspicacious (even rarer): “It will get better. The pain will fade over time and you will be able to focus on the good memories.”

Of course, at the time I thought that was crap, as I continued to moan about how life as I knew it was over, how I’d be alone forever, and how I’d have to seek companionship by either buying a dog or cloning myself.

However, it turns out he was right. Sure, it was difficult in the short term, as with all breakups. But by the end of the semester, I was playfully running around Brookfield Zoo during a rainstorm, hand-in-hand with my new girlfriend. The next chapter of my life had begun.

Gradually, all the hurt of the previous breakup slipped away, all the pain we caused each other in our relationship vanished, and all that was left behind was a mental scrapbook of our fondest memories.

If there are fairytale romances, this eventually grew into a fairytale breakup for me: we weren’t together, we didn’t want each other, we moved on with our lives, and I got to keep the good memories.

For a while, the outcome of my fairytale breakup made me overvalue my brother’s words of wisdom. In my youthful inexperience, I believed mine was the normal resolution for a serious breakup: bleed for a bit, then heal with no visible scar.

Years later, I’ve now been through more relationships, and watched as many friends have dealt with their own relationships, and this obvious realization became apparent: sometimes the bad memories refuse to slip away, and they linger like boxers landing solid shots to the brain and heart. Not all bad memories will go down without a fight. And others wobble but they don’t fall down.

But – what if there was a way to selectively eliminate these little ruffians from the mind? That very solution has been presented in literature and film, creatively leading to self-examination on some very interesting questions….

(To be continued in Part 2)