Time marches forward. We make progress. Or we want to go back to the old days. Time is an arrow pointing toward the future.
You’re having dinner with a friend. Someone walks by wearing an old lover’s cologne. Do you go back in time, while your fork stops between plate and lips? Does sweat sprout above your lip? Your old thoughts and feelings are re-running as the past re-happens.
Or say you awaken in terror with That Horrible Thing happening again. Your muscles tighten until they hurt. You’d swear you can smell him, taste him, feel the pain and fear. If you have PTSD are you somehow failing time when memories come back?
The progression of time is an illusion, and repeating memories spiral into our present and future. If we are lucky, That Horrible Thing fades, but sometimes instead it intensifies. We go around in our lives, following our habits to ease the load of reinventing everything every day. I go around the spiral, repeating, repeating. I drive to school, walk my dogs, pour my coffee, hundreds of patterns a day. Our minds are seldom in the present. The arrow may appear straight from one perspective, but from another we can see the spiral. The spiral widens, totally new things happen, habits form, memories recur.
Some people’s lives are not invaded by memory to the point that the everyday world is obliterated. We, the obliterated ones, are told we have trouble letting go. But really, our neurons fire more brightly, and our memories are in HD, not reel-to-reel film projectors. The world is our movie screen.
So, say I do want to let go. I want to see The End; I want the pain and fear out of my life, but there is no off switch. Sometimes if I tell you my memories, things get better. Sometimes I take self-defense classes or buy more locks. Time heals, but not in a linear way. The memories come less often, then they spiral in again, out and in until they somehow fly off the spiral. Or rather, the memory is never lost but my neurons burn out, like an unplugged LiteBrite set. The memory was once created in technicolor, and will always be a part of me, but now only those with special goggles can see it.