Memories constantly fool us, much more than I think most people would realize or admit. Memories that we carry with us from childhood are particularly tricky because our brains were less developed and time can drastically change memories.
I have many memories from childhood and each of them I hold onto knowing that what I remember and what the reality was may be two wildly different things.
I recently had a revelation of one such memory that brought-about this approach and encouraged me to never fully trust my recollection of events, or anyone else’s for that matter.
When my parents were splitting-up I remember going to family counselling. I don’t recall how many times we attended, but to me it seemed like once. It may have been more.
As we sat in the room with its professional grey, muted tones, and uncomfortable furniture, there were a lot of words being said and as a child I struggled to fully grasp what was going on.
My world was spiraling out of control and all that I had known was crumbling around me but my little brain was not able to process it all and separate what was happening between my parents from what was happening to me.
During this meeting my Dad said something that, for over 20 years I believed he had said directly to me:
‘I will never love you like I love her.’
What I heard: “I don’t love you anymore.”
In my mind, my Dad just told me that he doesn’t love me. Or, at least, that he loved someone more, which meant I wasn’t good enough-I could never measure up.
This moment in time changed my life forever.
It’s no wonder that my relationship with my Dad has been difficult. I would struggle during our weekends with him because I had these words playing over and over in the back of my mind.
It wasn’t until the past year when I was on the phone with my Mom and she mentioned that time that my Dad had told her that he would never love her like he loved his new partner that it all became clear.
He had never said it to me. It had nothing to do with me. That wasn’t how he felt about me.
I instantly felt such a great sadness for all those years that had been lost because of a misunderstood experience as a child that evolved into a destructive and heartbreaking memory.
As I grew up, I had held onto the memory of being told I was not good enough, not lovable, not important and it has been a memory that has shaped who I am today.
That is time I can never get back.
I often wonder how different my life may have been if someone had been able to set it straight so many years ago.
I always wish I could have that time with my Dad again, to be able to go back and have a relationship with him without that destructive memory getting in the way. To be able to grow up without feeling like I needed to constantly prove myself as being worthy of love or good enough to love and being able to enjoy just being loved.
Because, I know he loves me.
Love exists despite the pain, despite the sadness, despite the sad memories and lost time.
And, from this point forward I will go through life with the words of Marcel Proust forefront in my mind:
“Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.”
And I will be a little more careful with my memories.