How we choose to remember our past

As different things happen in your life, your priorities naturally change, so what was important at one stage, might be less so now. For example, when you are, young, free and single, things are very different, to when you start settling down, get married, start a family and begin to build a career. But it is our past experiences, that make us the people that we are today. All the choices that we have made, have brought us to this point in our lives.

For most of us, it is very important to hang onto things from our past, that will bring back memories, of key times in our lives. Perhaps people we met, experiences we had, things we achieved, or even sentimental objects that we bought or were bought for us. As I have got older, my desire for ‘things’ has become much less. Birthdays and Christmas’s have become more about, celebrating with family and friends rather than sharing meaningless gifts.

I guess my illness has a lot to do with this way of thinking. However,we have spent a lot of time clearing through the clutter, with which we have filled our house over the years. Most of it, very valued at the time, but 30 years or so on, I am struggling to remember why we kept it. Of course there are a few things that have sentimental value, but very few.Some of my friends have the same music on vinyl, tape, CD and now mp3. They just will not get rid of the physical evidence of their past.

My music collection has been purged, and everything is on my computer. I have no physical records or films at all. It did take some mental strength, but everything went to charity, and I feel somehow liberated! My exception to this rule, is my football programme collection. I have been going to football matches since 1965, and always buy a programme. I also buy important cup final programmes and even own a 1966 World Cup Final one. I have 1000s in my loft. My family laugh at me, and I rarely look at the collection but it would break my heart if I didn’t have them.Why is this?

 Back in the early days of photographs, we have albums full of pics, as the family have grown, but we don’t look at them for years. Now days we are taking pics and videos wherever we are. We can easily film anything we want to, and store it on our computers etc. It seems to be a natural urge, to cling onto the past in some way.Just because it is easy to do, will it have more value in 20-30 yrs?

Since I have entered the world of cancer, I have found, that I rely so much on my memories, as a form of sustenance.My new life started back in 2007, when I was diagnosed, so I am only 6 now! I am still trying to find a path, but the one thing that gives me strength, is the things that I had done in the past.I draw great comfort from those. Also some of the wonderful people I have met and some of the wonderful places I was able to visit, when I was well. At one time I did feel that looking too much at your past hindered your progress, but I now feel that it is aiding mine.

As I am getting older, and struggling with my health, memories are taking on a much higher priority in my life. Things that I may have decided were ordinary, when I was younger, have become much more of an event. Every birthday etc is celebrated differently now, and I make every effort to include my family and friends to make it even more special.These things are all in my head, and with me permanently, so I don’t need any physical memento.Sure, it is certainly impossible to remember everything, but it seems my memory remembers what I have considered important! Although the continual treatment does make things more tricky.

Our constant desire to cling to memories, seems to indicate, the subconscious value that we place on time, in our lives.After all, it is guaranteed that we will have less of it tomorrow, than we have today. It is a very depreciating asset.We all treat our memories differently. For some of us we like to have something physical to remind us, for others, that is less important.It seems that our brain, has a certain capacity, and naturally retains our important ones and disposes of the rest.

Special people, places, challenges, times and achievements. We all have them, and choose to remember them in different ways.Time has a way of helping you gently with the bad ones, as not all memories are good. I am really starting to understand the importance of memories in our lives. Is that because I am older, my health is poor,or is it natural?

How do you deal with yours? Have you even found the value of them yet?


  1. As always, a lovely and thought-provoking post, thank you Chris. I’m struggling with a different aspect of this – since chemo, my memory is nowhere near as sharp as I’d like it to be, some memories seem to be erased completely, others seem foggy and vague. So I value much more the memories I’ve held onto, most of them thankfully. I just hope that you and I both have plenty more lovely memories still to happen! Yvonne xx

  2. Hi Yvonne

    I’m exactly the same Yvonne. My memory is nowhere near as sharp as it was, but nature seems to have protected most of the valuable ones. I struggle with detail like names and places. In my early years of treatment etc, I kept trying to cling onto my past, foolishly thinking that I would be able to just pick up my life where I left off.

    Once I let go of that idea, I was able to slowly start moving forward with my ‘new life.’ Of course, everyone is different, and some people surround themselves with physical stuff to remind them of their time. I have now found it helpful to declutter and move on.

    I’m sure the same is for you Yvonne, and you will certainly understand what I am saying. Everyday gives me wonderful memories, and I am thankful for each one. I wish you the same, and my fingers are crossed for a lovely summer.

    Thank you for your lovely comments, Chris xx

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