You forget what you want to remember and remember what you want to forget

You forget what you want to remember and
you remember what you want to forget

Cormac McCarthy, The Road

I love the book, The Road. It is full of the most beautifully written prose. This beauty is at odds with the topic of the book. For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with the story I won’t give any spoilers , but suffice to say it is set in an post-apocalyptic, dystopian world where there is no beauty. Only loss and pain.

I have often been drawn to dystopian fiction. I wonder why.

Dystopia is the opposite to Utopia. Utopia was an imaginary place dreamt up in the sixteenth century by Thomas More. It was a place where everything is perfect, no suffering or pain. No such place exists, of course. Dystopia is the opposite of Utopia. There is suffering and pain.

I wish I could forget the pain and remember only the joy. When I close my eyes, I try to remember the warmth of Hugo’s skin against mine, the feeling of his fist gripping my finger; how he made us laugh being naughty; changing his nappy. Those thoughts are in my head, but they are overwhelmed by the sorrow, the terrible decisions, the terror, the things I would like to forget. They are interlinked, intertwined I know. One goes with the other. I wish I had the memory of the simple beauty of motherhood, the cares, the singing, the reading to my son, without the spectre of grief looming over it.

I wish I could remember the joy without the terrifying memories giving me a panic attack.

During Hugo’s life I had such hope. I tried to use positive thought, thinking ahead to taking him home, hoping the power of love would be enough to help him beat the odds. Each of those days was fraught with stress: the beeps, the avoiding the doctors in case they had news I did not want to hear. But they were also filled with so much joy. My little boy was there for me to see, to love, to care for. I so much want to remember only that.

I am travelling along my own road. Unlike The Man and his son, I do not have to forage for food, or run from people who wish me harm. But the road I am travelling on is full of its own dangers and obstacles.

Some of these dangers and obstacles are real: those who do not mean harm but cause it anyway, unintentionally by not knowing what to say, or by being insensitive in some other way. Other obstacles are a part of my grief: people sometimes cannot do right for doing wrong.

This makes the road treacherous to travel.

I wish I did not have to travel this road. I wish that I could remember what I want to remember, the lovely parts of the special time with my son. I wish I could forget the terror and the sorrow – that these were not here at all, because I am travelling a different road.

But I am on this road. There is no diversion. It is a long road, I am on it for the long haul. I shall try to make the words on the road as beautiful as I can. It is a way to enjoy the better memories, help them flourish as protection for me on my journey, and help keep at bay the memories I want to forget .

9 thoughts on “You forget what you want to remember and remember what you want to forget

  1. lilleyheidi says:

    Our journeys are a tad bit different and yet quite the same. I remember, and yet, I never felt that breath of warm air on my cheek as I snuggled him/her against me. I never heard that first cry, or held that tiny hand in mine. I’m sorry for your nightmares, but I’m not sorry for your journey or mine. I’m grateful I had that time. Life is a puzzle, we pick a piece and put it there and it fits or it doesn’t. We keep picking up new and different pieces till it all fits. Keep traveling. The journey is worth it.

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  2. heidi says:

    My journey is a tad bit different, and yet quite the same. I remember, and yet there was nothing there to remember. No hands to hold, no whispers of a warm breath on my cheek, no laughter as I heard that first cry. I’m sorry for your nightmares, but I’m not sorry for your journey, just as I’m not sorry for my journey. I remember, and I hope you remember the love.

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  3. downssideup says:

    Leigh, having met you, these words brought me straight to your heart. I understand what you say completely. Our journeys will never be the same, and we have the wisdom to pick it all apart. Sometimes that helps, sometimes that hurts.
    Hayley x

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  4. Tara says:

    You do make the words beautiful and that’s part of why they have such impact. I also enjoyed The Road for his prose but it gave me nightmares – I suppose that’s part of what you were saying really.

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