Each and every one of us, is actually two of us.
The one that everyone else knows and the one you know yourself. You don’t even need to know yourself for others to know you.
A baby is a person but they have no capacity for knowing that they are a person yet. A person in a coma is still a person, but they have forgotten it. They can’t consciously retrieve their knowledge of self.
We can exist and not exist at the same time.
It is an obsession of mine to store evidence of self. Exhibits of a life lived. Under my bed there are boxes of old cards and letters. Funny notes that my best buddy and I traded in Year 8 Maths class. Beautiful birthday cards with heartfelt messages. Post cards from my Mattie on his overseas travels. The gift of words.
For each of my children, I have started their own evidence box which they can build on in their future. I kept hospital bracelets from the day they were born. First birthday cards and pre-school reports. The evolution of their art styles, from primitive scribbles to the astounding flair of today.
When my Mum and Dad moved out of the house that they had lived in for over thirty years, my sisters and I finally had to take ownership of all the things that we had left in storage at the Pares house. It was an Extreme Sports version of a trip down Memory Lane. Memory Sand Dunes on a Quad Bike.
A lifetime of tangible history to be sorted through in one day. By the end of the day we were wantonly destroying the evidence – tossing boxes and boxes straight into the bin. In a way it was liberating, because I faced one of my greatest fears and survived.
The fear of Losing History.
House fires strike terror in my heart. Losing photographs is like losing a part of yourself. Visual evidence for an unreliable memory. I have often tried to imagine how I would recover if I lost all of my diaries in a fire or other accident.
I have been keeping hand-written diaries on and off since I was 10 years old and religiously since I was 20. For the last 19 years every single day of my life is accounted for. The level of detail may vary, but there is nothing less than half a page at least that records where I was, what I was up to and what I was thinking. My Alzheimer’s Insurance Policy. I fear that if I lost my library of life history I would be cut adrift, like an astronaut free-falling through space.
Recently my phone broke and because I don’t have a degree in iPhonology, I lost everything. Most photos were posted on Instagram or had been saved elsewhere, but the thing I found upsetting was that I lost all of my text message conversations. Text threads are relationship histories. The jokes you shared, the places you met, apologies made, support given. I enjoyed meandering through my friendships in text.
I read a very interesting article about homeless people who hoard their possessions. The article posited that having already lost everything once before, the homeless hoarders were safeguarding against future loss. Stockpiling a sense of security. This is how I feel about words. I am building a fort against the loss of history.