There was a time when I tried to recall events and information and I could not help myself but wander for hours, if not days, to access my memories. And even then, many details felt washed out. That is a defeating feeling for me. At times it is more than annoying – it becomes sad.
The feeling of annoyance is mostly related if the information is critical for a current matter. Something that could be used to clarify a misunderstanding or help us in our current endeavors.
When we have conversations with our friends and family, to make an example, we may find ourselves iterating over some story that connects each other. Except, we recall events differently. It is quite normal, for we live for stories: they count more than facts, and because of that we are better as storytellers than objective narrators.
The point I am trying to make is the following: the more remote our story is, the less reliable we are as narrators. It takes to have an exceptional capability of recollection to tell a story always the same way, without losing or mixing details. Over the years, we get to retell or listen to the same anecdotes with the same people; and in case of disagreement, you as a whole may look for proof of validation.
While our mind can play us tricks, we can always rely on other forms of recording to renforce our memories. And nothing is better than a diary!
Historically, journals have been used most frequently to have a traced account of family chronicles and journeys. The practice hasn’t disappeared: it evolved. Perhaps it is not popular as it was; nowadays, it is commonly used as a device for therapy and reflection. Whereas, due to exemplified editorial pipelines (i.e. Kindle Direct Publishing) anyone can publish an autobiography, the purpose of recording is different.
I am looking now at the journal as a “data storage”. Honestly, I do not use my diaries to record facts as they are unless it is something relevant I want to reflect upon; but I record what I consider salient stories, and I extrapolate facts at a later time. That is because we need to step back from events we live personally in order to analyze the following:
- What did I feel at that moment?
- Why did [this event] give me this impression?
- How else can I explain what happened?
The stories we tell the others are the ones we also tell to ourselves. At a given point, we begin to believe in what we recount, risking permanently altering the facts. Our stories may not be relevant to us right now, but if we find ourselves in mood to read and relive ourselves we will want the real thing.
And the more reliable we are as narrators, the more honest we are with ourselves.