Dave and I have been back together for Married, Part II for a couple of years now. The hurt and the tumult of our separation isn’t so close to the surface anymore, though occasionally, a memory from that time will come up and I can feel it’s presence even if I’m not actively thinking about it. Like when you have gas… you can go about your day, but you aren’t as relaxed as you could be.
One evening last week, with the girls in bed and Dave out of town, I snuggled up on the couch to watch a movie. I picked one from the ‘quirky comedy’ list and, turns out, this story is about a couple navigating separation and co-parenting after divorce. With this story playing out on the screen, those gassy feelings I mentioned moved into the realm of fully conscious reflection. I could relate to the confusion, the excitement, and the parenting negotiations that went on with our hero and heroine. I appreciated the story telling that gave time for the uncomfortable stuff that’s a part of divorce. I was happy, in the end, when the two of them were able to move on.
Memory is such a funny thing. We might forget something that has happened to us, the details may fade, we may remember something correctly or incorrectly, or imagine something. However they come about, and in one form or another, these experiences stay with us. In the first chapter of the Yoga sūtras, Patañjali presents us with 5 functions of the mind, one of which is smṛti or memory*. In YS 1.11 he defines smṛti as the “unthievable record of your experience”**. Untheivable… can’t be stolen. I love that because it is totally true.
Memories don’t leave us, but as we create more memories, the old ones do change and can be refined. After the movie, I went to bed but didn’t fall asleep right away. I was having a lot of old break-up feelings. They are so different now than when I was in the midst of it. Back then, I could feel my heart race and my body respond over the littlest reminder. This time, they didn’t overwhelm me.
Time heals. Yeah, okay. But the thing about time passing is that in that time, we have other experiences. Time spent laughing together, really listening to each other, offering care and feeling loved – all of these things leave their own memories and record behind. These experiences have more power than the break-up ones once did. The new experiences are the ones I want to connect to, and am trying my hardest to create. As a result, these new experiences are reshaping the old memories and giving rise to who we are together now.
*The 5 vṛtti, functions of the mind.
The mind can…
prāmaṇa — perceive correctly
viparyaya – perceive incorrectly
Vikalpa – create something that isn’t there (imagine or invent).
Nidra – be in a deep, dreamless sleep
Smṛti – create memories
*This translation comes from yoga sūtras classes I took with Chase Bossart.