Finding Meaning Through Memoir

Most of the time I am completely preoccupied with whatever is happening in my life right this second.  I worry about the bills I have to pay, the assignment that’s due or the appointment I am late for.

For the past four weeks I have spent at least six hours a day, remembering my life. Sure, I often reminisce about things I have done, places I have gone and people I have loved, but memories stand for so much more.  The past is the foundation of our present.  No matter how much I want to convince myself that the past doesn’t exist.  It exist in every one of my cells, my behaviours and even my identity.  So instead of shunning my past, I took four weeks to appreciate it.  To look at my childhood through the eyes of an adult that has been shaped by her life and the world.  The result was a wonderful experience.

I discovered that there are many things, that I hardly ever gave any thought to, that did affect me very strongly.  Like growing up during the apartheid regime in South Africa.  I don’t remember too much of that time, but when I took the time to look at my memories I realised how much unresolved emotion I still carried with me from my experiences.  A memory can be like an unused room in your house.  It can get dusty and the energy can become stagnant, but if you are brave enough to venture into it then you can dust the cobwebs away, open some windows and let fresh air in.  And what do you gain?  An extra room and more space in your heart.  Memoir is like spring cleaning your life.

I ventured into the years that I spent growing up on a game reserve in South Africa.  The wonderful freedom I had as a child and how privileged I was to grow up so close to nature and what I perceived as God.  Every day I had the opportunity to witness life even if that sometimes meant through the death of a beloved pet.  I experienced adventure.  When I took the time to collect my memories they became like a necklace made up of precious artifacts that I can now proudly wear.

Through my Memoir class I discovered wonderful authors such as Marjane Satrapi and Jill Ker Conway.  Jill wrote about her childhood growing up in the outback of Australia and then some years later about when she left her country and moved to the United States to study history at Harvard.  In Inventing The Truth she talks about how important it is to examine your life and to make sure that the plot is the one you really want.  She talks about how important it is to not be sentimental, especially as a woman, but to take charge of your life.

I also discovered the wonderful book Old Friend from Far Away, that helps you to provoke memories.  One prompt was, “Write everything you know about Ice Cream. Ten minutes. Go!”  Who would have known what a massive role Ice Cream played in my life.

Thank you Nynke for a wonderful class and thank you to all my classmates, who non judgmentally allowed me to share my life, even when the words were clunky or came with tears.

Love, Peace & Play

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2 Responses to Finding Meaning Through Memoir

  1. Gabriel Enslin says:

    Thank you for inspired words Tanell.

    I would like to focus on a small part of what you said: ‘I don’t remember too much of that time, but when I took the time to look at my memories I realised how much unresolved emotion I still carried with me from my experiences. ‘

    I know this is a small part of your piece, but it spoke to me. I recently went through an experience that gave me perspective on the pain I caused a loved one a long time ago. It was this experience that made me realise how much unresolved emotion I carried with me from that experience. It also made me realise that I was never brave enough to step up and deal with it. To reach out to the person on the other end and to confess my shortcomings as a person, and my regret for my poor actions.

    What I am trying to say is, in life we make mistakes, and we cause other people pain from time to time. Don’t hold on to those memories and guilt feelings simply because you don’t have the words to describe your regret, or the courage to face your friend. These things will never go away. I encourage any one who in their heart knows that they have unresolved emotions, to tackle them head on seek them out. Reach out to the people in your life with whom you have unfinished business and finish it. Dust out that dark and stagnant room, clean it out and put something nice inside. Something that will remind you of the good times…


  2. Mobius says:

    “I realised how much unresolved emotion I still carried with me from my experiences. A memory can be like an unused room in your house.”

    This is a fantastic recognition, in order to allow our mental faculties to work in harmony with our more heart chackra based emotional state, we must allow the “memory rooms” to be perfectly clean and aired out. This by no means is defined by remembering EVERYTHING all the time, but is a tool to experience perfect memory recall. All while in the very moment of the new experience, in order to fully use the memory to aid and assist you in THAT moment; for this is the reason it was recalled in the first place. If we have cobwebs attached to our mind or experiences, when our mind– which is just trying to help– brings something to light in order to grow and evolve from it can cast a dark shadow over what we are doing, when in fact that dark shadow was something we created long ago in a circumtance that is not in any way benifical to recall in this moment. That being said, beautiful memories are the juice that gets me out of bed in the morning! The sharpness and vivid clarity that comes from perfect recall is a beautiful thing that drives much of the human potential.

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