That’s me at the Thiruvanmiyur beach in Chennai last week. Let me tell you a story about that bench.
Our memories are transitory. They shift and change. And as we grow into them, their character changes. Scientists know that our memories are fallible.
They also know that the brain is hardwired to remember the bad memories more than the good ones. Our brain doesn’t know about being happy – its only job in life is to keep you alive. To help you survive. So, it keeps the bad stuff close, ready to leap into action and protect you. It really doesn’t care if the bad memories keep you chained to unhappiness.
So, here’s what my brain remembered of that beach. It remembered meeting a person there in November 2020. A person who caused a great deal of harm. A person who sat next to me there on the same bench, mocked me throughout and treated me with condescension. I came back from that meeting feeling terrible and wrote about that here. (The person didn’t like that I wrote that either, accusing me of doxxing her)
I went back to that beach in January last year with a friend. But I couldn’t sit on that bench. I was too weak, the pain still too fresh. I avoided it.
Fast forward to the now.
This year, I was back again, this time with someone who knows me intimately and has been with me through the horrors of last year. We stayed at the same hotel for a night. It was deliberate. And the Universe was in perfect synchrony, matching coincidence with the vibration of healing.
It was May 6th when I arrived there. It was that same day in 2017 that the person’s boyfriend stalked me, an act that would scar me for the next five years.
This time, I am stronger.
My brain reacted immediately when I approached the bench. I felt the same nausea that the person’s memories bring up. But this time, my friend sat with me. It went away. We stared at the sea. We laughed. We took photos. We people-watched. We nodded at strays.
“Feel better?” my friend asked.
And it was the truth. I closed my eyes and replayed this new scene again and again. It will take my brain a while to let go of that old memory, but I know that the brain is malleable. It will listen.
Then, I took a stick and buried that old memory. I buried May 6th. I buried that guy who harassed me. I buried that person who supported that harassment.
Acts like this are merely symbolic, I know. But it gave me some semblance of release. It’s a bit like how I scoff at my therapist when she tells me to put a hand on my heart when I feel angry and address the anger and say, “I hear you. I am taking care of you.”
“That works?” I ask sarcastically. She grins and shrugs. I am not doing that, I protest. She grins some more. She’s fun like that.
But when the session is over, I keep aside my cynicism. I try it. It works. Anger is hurt wanted to be heard.
So, I think of my therapist and dig more – I bury that old memory. I bury the pain.
I take more photos.
And I take pride in how much stronger I am now. I write this to tell you that you can take your old memories, that haunted pain, and start to rewire them. It’s not going to be done in one instance. It will take years, perhaps. Months. Days. Minutes. We don’t know. Not all rewiring requires you to go to the same place and replace it with a fresh experience.
But the process of choosing what we want to focus on is important. I will share how I have been working on rewiring in another post.
Until we meet, I send you love, light, and a hi from this bench.