A couple of weeks ago I was having a crisis about being ill with migraines and asrana told me that someone had once got her to mentally visualise what her timeline of life looked like - you know, how she would visually represent her past and possibly future. And then she asked me how I would, because she was curious, and when I thought about it, the image that came immediately to mind was so perfectly accurate that I can't believe I never thought of it before.
The reason I never thought of it before is that until last December I never realised my memory didn't work the same way as everyone else's. God forbid I go searching for yet more ways in which to be a special unique snowflake, but I randomly ran into my prep school English teacher on a train at the end of last year and we started discussing people I'd been at school with. "Oh, yes," she said, "There was that boy, what was his name?"
"Tom," I said indignantly, "Tom [Exbestfriend]. I was obsessed with him." We laughed, although she couldn't remember. "I wrote you that story," I reminded her, "For English class, about IT, the monster, and how I saved him from IT. It was incredibly stupid."
"I can't believe you can remember that, I've no idea what you're talking about."
"I remember a lot of things," I said, unconsciously quoting Charlie from Heroes, "I still sort of half-blame that boy for everything that ever went wrong with me."
"From that long ago?! Emily, my love, you need to learn to let go of things."
Which is something people have said to me often, and something that is true, only I suddenly realised something extraordinary at that point in the conversation with her.
For most people, as they move chronologically further away from events in their life, those events move further away from them, too.
Does this not sound like a revelation to you? Possibly not, because you might be one of those most people, who take for granted the fact that the past stretches out behind you (if you visualise it that way) or to your left, or beneath you, depending on, you know, how you look at it, but the important thing is that apparently, for many people - most people - as they get further away from events, events get further away from them. What happened ten years ago is ten years' distance away from them.
When asrana asked me to visualise my timeline, it looked like this :
The future is in front of me. It is five months' worth of flat, grey linoleum. This is because I can't believe in a future more than five months ahead and I don't trust anything booked into my future to actually happen until I get there.
The past is behind me. It's a cupboard. A wardrobe. A big wardrobe.
You know how when you're a kid and you're supposed to tidy things away (or, uh, an adult, if you are me, often) and you just can't be bothered, as long as you can see the damn floor, so you just bundle everything into a cupboard one thing on top of the other and then shut the doors very fast and try to remember not to open it because it will all fall out? That's my past. Absolutely everything that I remember ever happening to me is right behind me, all the time. As in, anything that I remember, I remember as if it happened yesterday. There are some things that are further down in the cupboard, you know, so maybe they happened early yesterday instead of yesterday afternoon, but everything happened to me yesterday.
I thought everyone was like this. I can't let anything go, because it happened yesterday, and how are you supposed to get over something awful if it only happened yesterday? I can't forgive myself for anything bad I've ever done, because I only did it yesterday and that's no time at all for anyone to forgive anything. I always thought everyone else was the same, and so assumed they couldn't forgive me either, because how could they? It was only yesterday I messed everything up. And so on.
I'm hoping that the realisation that it's not like that for everybody will at least mean I'm able to start to believe that even if I can't let anything go, other people presumably can, and therefore the things I do wrong that seem towering and awful to me (I am still hurting myself over a cup I broke when I was seven, and an e-mail I sent when I was fourteen) might not matter so much to the people I'm still apologising to for them.
Nnnh. Like with every entry I ever make about what goes on in my head, I now feel like the most ridiculous person on earth and as though I'm saying LOOK LOOK I'M SO SPECIAL AND PRECIOUS, which I'm not, I just find it interesting.
What's your timeline?