This Recording, December 2014. Original article.
In which we live outside of memory
I never remember Decembers once they are gone. I walk through the days knowing I’ll forget them, that all the detail will fade, except for the feeling of stretching towards the light as it’s disappearing fast. This happens every year like clockwork, marking the seasons. My body is heavy with sleep and my brain is committing nothing to memory, like each day is a polaroid that gets thrown away.
It’s an odd feeling, being in the middle of a moment I know won’t stick. In the narrative of my life, it’s an anomaly: I’m living outside of my memory. I watched a TED talk once about the conflict between the self that experiences, and the self that remembers; how most of the time we choose things in service of our memories, even though the experiencing self may be having a different opinion in the moment. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, especially the question posed at the end: If you were going on a trip, would you choose differently if you knew you’d remember nothing afterwards?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is sometimes called winter depression, but I’m not actually unhappy. I used to be at this time of year, but getting older has fixed a lot. Now, the fog that sets in for the two darkest months is just a physical thing. Sometimes it feels like jetlag, or like having been woken up in the middle of the night. A sunlamp keeps me above water as I do the things I know to help: sleep at night, be awake during the day, go outside, eat properly, exercise. I don’t know what it says about me that I’m surprised: clean living seems to be the solution to almost everything.
People change all the time, I know that, but only if they really want to, or if something big happens. I don’t know which of the two are at work, but somehow the winter fog feels a little different this year. Card-carrying introvert that I am, I’m shocked to discover I’m becoming outgoing, all of a sudden drawn to people, to dinners, drinks, texting, even phone calls. I’ve always needed a lot of time by myself, becoming restless and unsettled if I didn’t get it, and normally, winter tends to bring out the worst elements in me. Still, this year, something is happening. It’s as dark as ever but somehow, change seems possible.
I keep waiting for my solitary nature to assert itself, but this isn’t about my head. Winter was has always been a whole-body experience, and this year it seems the body I live in wants to go out, talk to people, and get another drink on the rocks. Maybe my body is simply taking advantage of this moment outside of memory, realising this is a holiday I won’t remember after it’s over. This is just for the experience. But unless I remember it, is this really happening? A feeling is bubbling up, it’s small but it’s there, and I’m hoping maybe it will be stronger than the waking sleep. Maybe this is a momentary reprieve, or maybe it’s a fundamental change, I don’t know. All I know is that it feels so physical.