Responsible memory-keeping*

by lowestreads

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I am halfway through my 39th book for this year. The book: Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem, a gem I found in a Booksale somewhere. Worth: 75php and priceless. I am a changed person, I think, and that is all I’m saying about it (for now).

One of the essays included in this collection is called “On Keeping a Notebook”, where Didion declares (for herself, at least) that we write to keep a record of who we were: how it felt to me, remembering how it was to be me.

Sounds rather ominous, doesn’t it? To rely on written accounts of ourselves by ourselves to recall who we were and what we’re like. But – as a matter of fact – a good and valid point, and ominous only if you don’t trust yourself (which, in a way, as proven by this, I guess I don’t–perhaps?): how else do we remember, knowing the kind of mindless flimsy creatures of earth that we are?

And she has a point, of course she has. A gentle reminder that this is the woman who wrote the novel which eventually inspired a sad boy from Ohio to write music, later on becoming the lead and lyricist of the band that is also the love of my life. But I digress. In her essay, Didion highlights the importance of being in ‘nodding terms’ with past versions of ourselves – by keeping track of each of them – so that they wouldn’t come up unannounced and surprise us to death or fill us with frustration or self-loathing (whichever comes first).

I am rather bad at keeping notebooks. Among my friends (I don’t have many), I know of at least one who religiously keep a journal: every year of her life, a notebook, recording not so much of what she did but what she was like, what she thought about, conversations she had, what she liked and disliked, passages from books she read, who she was at the time. She made me read one of hers once, the journal filled with now-bitter memories of times and places and people once cherished, and I knew even without her telling me that I am reading her journal not because of the trust and friendship we’ve forged between us but because it was too painful, possibly too heavy, to keep it all to herself.

And I appreciate it, truly. But I do not have the discipline that she has – let alone the energy – to keep a journal and write on it too. I did try keeping a journal once, and obviously you wouldn’t know how long it took so you would just have to take my word for it but the time between the writing of this sentence and the one before it was spent browsing through my old (and only) actual journal – a black (of course) venzi unruled book I got from the local bookstore and which I managed to keep updated for six months–and that’s as far as I can go. The very last entry is actually dated March 16, 2015, but I stopped writing around July the year prior. The March entry is the draft of an (obviously, hopefully) unsent letter to the girl who dumped me, circa Christmas 2014. (I know: savage.)

(About this letter: I do not remember writing it, ever, but I do remember feeling some of the things I put in there. Just one of the many evidences to support Didion’s claims: how it felt to me, remembering how it was to be me — numb and defeated and carelessly wishing for death.)

I confess that I do better with the keyboard than I ever am with pen and paper. If you know where to look (and how), I am almost certain you will find the many blogs (some secret, most not) that I have scattered all across the vastness of the internet (not on purpose; I am as much a nomad in blogging as I am in friendship). In these obscure spaces dwell the people I used to be, and because they are written somewhere I can easily access — yes, admittedly, we – my old selves and I – are in nodding terms with each other, but only because we know each other and our mothers taught us how to be polite. Nonetheless, I know them, and if I see them somewhere I would recognize them, and that’s as good as any way to keep the evils at bay.

Though not all evils. And somewhere along the way I stopped doing this, writing, either in an unknown corner of the web or a cheap notebook in real life. I got busy. I finished school, I started working, I moved in to my own place, I met the love of my life and didn’t do anything about it, I stopped talking to my friends, I kept wishing for death, kept waking up in the morning disappointed. Somewhere in there I stopped writing, and now there is no longer a record of my thoughts and my comings and goings anywhere (not that, in the grand scheme of things, they are worth-recording, but that is beside the point) except the email I send my boss at the end of everyday reporting what I did.

And I am losing touch not only with the people I tried so hard to keep in my life but also with the people that I used to be. So that is what I’m trying to do: to defeat this evil unrecognizable beast, I have to remember who I was, keep a record of who I am now. I don’t particularly like this person, but it’s best to keep them on record.

*Carina Santos, 2016
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