it must be true.
I may be an ‘Episodic’, not a ‘Diachronic’.*
Standing in front of the mirror wearing a spring neckline, i.e. lower than a winter-up-to-the-chin neckline, I saw a faded scar running in a big arc just under my collar bone, like a thin-lipped but wide smile. I had forgotten every word about it. Every so often doctors ask me about my medical history; although this was a particularly traumatic experience I have omitted to mention it for years. I clean forgot everything about it.
I am not an amnesiac. I have a past, like any other human and I have a fairly normal amount of factual (and imagined) knowledge about it. But I don’t see myself as a product of this past, having arrived in a continuous stream of experiences at the point I find myself today. Looking back over my life, I find episodes that resemble rooms; each one with its own furniture of comfort and discomfort, pain and pleasure, heartache and joy. But each room has a door which is firmly shut and I have no feeling that I have passed from one to the other.
Since I started this blog I have delved into the past and resurrected it. But the child I wrote about is not the younger self of me today, nor is the young girl who came to the UK and found squalor and tawdriness my direct antecedent. Factually, that is nonsense, of course, but to me my life feels real only now, during my current ‘episode’. As it felt real during each of the preceding episodes. But, as soon as each episode came to its natural end, so did my connection with it. I feel that past experiences do not belong in any way meaningfully to the present-day ‘me’.
Most people live their lives as a continuous narrative; ‘episodics’ much less so. Or not at all. Looking back over my life I see each of the rooms I mentioned containing a person who was me, but I feel almost no connection to her. That doesn’t mean that I can’t dissect her or write her biography. Or feel for her; passionately and dispassionately at the same time.
I’ve often wondered why I feel able to move on quite easily, why I’ve never felt that even the most unpleasant or traumatic periods in my life have touched my ‘core’. as if there is something deep inside me which is inviolable because it is forever detached. I used to think of myself as just not caring enough but I don’t think that’s true. Equally, my inability to make lifelong friends has puzzled me. But if it’s true that the ‘episodic’ lives a life of separate chapters which are without continuity then any relationships are only meaningful for the duration of that particular episode in which they come about.
I am neither sad nor happy about this realisation, just accepting. It’s like somebody switched on a previously dimmed light, illuminating vaguely perplexing shadows.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
* The terms are mentioned in a paper published by the philosopher Galen Strawson