These past few weeks I’ve been looking inwards, frequently. My Twitter timeline seems to have suddenly become inundated with positive ‘BuzzTweets’; ‘Don’t worry about what’s happened, focus on what’s ahead’, ‘Today’s a new day, a new beginning, so smile’, but why should I?
Maybe all this toothsome positivity is manifesting because of the imminent lifting of Lockdown 2:0 here in the UK. Maybe people, government PR depts, (or bots) are posting these statements, decrees, ‘commands’, as a means to jolt people out of their Covid malaise? To guilt-trip the populace through positivity? For many, looking inwards, into both our former and future pasts, is seen as a negative. Either a self-indulgent act drenched in nostalgia, or a means, an excuse, to explain why one considers their present life to be unsuccessful, unfulfilled. Personally, I do not feel the need to police the reflective practice of others.
Receding into thoughts, memories, rose-tinted or not, is an act of escape. Holidays and events (mis)remembered. Happy times with friends and loved ones… Withdrawing into one’s mind opens portals to existences that, sometimes, never had the chance to flourish in the ways we wanted. Living extended lives with those who were taken from us too soon. Connecting with the person we adore(d), the one who forever haunts us and is (in our minds) the reason for all of the failed, failing, and those that shall never occur, romantic relationships.
This all reminds me of Hiraeth, a Welsh word that also has Cornish (hireth) and Breton (hiraezh) equivalents. It is difficult to fully articulate, but my paternal family (Welsh forebears) described it as a type of homesickness for a place that you can never return to, or, indeed, a place that never existed. When people discuss homesickness, they generally refer to it within contexts of physical place, and people they know, or have known. Yet why should it only be considered within these parameters?
For me, this is why I return to Hiraeth frequently. For I yearn to venture to a past, and a future, that both exist, yet also do not. Sitting in our beach hut watching the incoming storm make landfall. Wandering through Western Europe, alone, but happy. Seeing my dad live to a ripe old age. Winning the heart of the man of my twisted and reclusive dreams, living out our days happily walking within distorted edgelands, with only the night for company. It is good to dream, to ponder upon different existences…
Existence is an intriguing, yet thorny concept. Just this morning I’ve been engaged in a fascinating Twitter discussion relating to an article I happened upon. I asked whether existence should only be bestowed upon that which is corporeal? Whether individuals, ‘created’ by others, who live on through images, written form, spoken words, ponderings, could also be considered extant? A friend responded that these beings do not have ‘independent existence’, and therefore cannot be considered in the same way as their fleshly counterparts, and in the literal sense this is indeed true. However, even though these ‘creations’ may not have agency, they do exist independently of their ‘creators’, through remembrance; both collective and individual, via the material, the virtual, and the cerebral. Thus, when I, and others, escape into the liminal worlds of our minds, should we only consider our reminiscences of people and places that we have physically known as ‘real’ and, therefore, valid? Does withdrawing to ponder upon a father who lives to be 90, instead of 50; or a lover who I will probably never meet, make them any less existent, make the ‘remembering’ disingenuous?
Should the active attempt to quash bad memories be considered erroneous, or as a means to survive? For the longest time, I chose to supress horrific events and bad people from my past, in the vain hope that repression would lead to complete eradication of these memories, of the very events themselves. A chance to rewrite my past, and therefore my future. Sadly, this reasoning ultimately proved futile. I now realise that, for myself, engaging with some of these individuals and incidents from my life has been a liberating experience. I can now accept that the erasure of certain memories would lead to the erasure of me, as I am, at this present moment in time. Yes, it would be wonderful to not have to contend with certain remembrances, but experience formulates personhood. We are constantly developing, changing. Five minutes from now I will not be the same person who is typing this sentence.
So, where do these ponderings bring us? I must admit, they have been somewhat diverse. I think what I’m trying to convey is that it’s ok to retreat inwards, to ponder upon lost pasts, lost futures. To look back, to look forward, to (mis)remember. To reflect on things that did not, and may never, come to pass. To consider previous events, and be proud of the person you’ve become, despite of them. For me, these are not self-indulgent acts. I believe they can offer release, FuturePast regression enabling progression…