Monday, 25 May 2015

If there’s a word for it

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.

Derek Walcott

* The terms are mentioned in a paper published by the philosopher Galen Strawson
“Against Narrativity”.


  1. This post is so interesting. It has made me wonder about my own life and how events have shaped me (which I believe in my case they have). Unlike some people (especially elderly people I know - and I consider myself in that category now), I don't feel the need to constantly reminisce about the good (or bad) old days. I don't dwell on the past, but still, I think it's an important part of me. I think I'm ever-changing and sometimes that means that people to whom I was once close have drifted away either from my own lack of interest or theirs. Friendship is tricky and long-time friends (of which I have a handful) need as much attention as flowers in a garden or they will wilt and not come up again next season. The Walcott poem speaks so well to what you've written. I had never read it before, and I like it a lot. You have a special talent for putting your thoughts into writing, Friko.

  2. Thank you Friko for introducing me to the wise words of Derek Walcott as I was unknowing of them and there is much wisdom there.

    Life is an odd journey, hard (to some degree) for most of us I would think, though as an onlooker some would appear to tread an easier road.

    I bear scars too, not finding myself until mid-twenties – an unhappy childhood, though there is no reason for it to be so, for I cannot fault my parents and their love of me and the security they offered. But I was me, the born me…

    I was and still am an introverted soul, I no longer see this as a ‘condition’ rather recognition of whom I am and I am happy with this.

    I have now matured enough – long since – to offer myself as outgoing and am comfortable with this. But deep inside me am still (the introverted) me and am happy with this too. I have (two) great friendships spanning forty and (?) sixteen years, but if the truth be known, if they ended tomorrow, well…

    Live in your rooms Dear Friko – don’t dissect them.

    We are what we are today, take comfort in it and don’t don’t dissect it. Take peace in who you are.

    The kindest of regards
    Anna :o]

  3. "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."

    You expressed so well my own experience of myself...once more!

    ( '>

    ALOHA from Honolulu,

  4. Hmm. This explains a lot. Thank you.

  5. I like the idea of the different rooms with different Frikos in it at different ages ... in my case, I see different rooms as well, but it's always only this one me walking around in this one, ten in that one ... i'm almost sixty, and it feels good to revisit and smile and/ or cry about the keepsakes in every one of those rooms ... pick em up, blow the dust off them and put them back into their lil assigned spots ... same goes for friends ... well, except my 5 closest from over 30 years ago ... smiles ... Love, cat.

  6. You bring up a point that I have never considered. I just thought everybody was like me. We have a continuous time line. Life just keeps movin' on.

  7. Clearly very thought provoking. Like you, I have questioned myself about whether I just don't care. My partner so easily takes offence and feels hurt, yet I don't. I wonder what motivated someone to do something that may cause me hurt and I can usually find an explanation, and if not, it is something in their head that I will never know. Not only do I not have a life long friend, nor have I ever had what I consider a close friend; a confident. But what would I talk about with them when I have nothing of note to confide? I do have good friends though, just not very many.

  8. Caught up. Good. Rapeseed is known as Canola in Canada. Lovely photos. I love that poem above. And I too compartmentalize though I do love your words around it.

    And EHS, never heard of it but the tinfoil hat brigade are funny in your village but I wouldn't want them in mine. The quacks in our 'hood just mutter things like : Don't believe in that evil Facebook" and mumble off down the road. Your lot have taken it to a supersonic level.


  9. This is a fascinating post, Friko. It helped me. When I read, "I am neither sad nor happy about this realisation, just accepting", it felt it like a cool breeze on a hot day. There is a tremendous rational strength in it. I am a man of limited emotional range and probably fall short of expressing the feeling, but thank you.

  10. Very interesting and thought-provoking.
    While I am able very well to divide the various areas in my life like the neat compartments of my kitchen drawers, I still have the "big picture" in mind and feel fully connected to the past 47 years of my life. I can still very much feel like the girl I was at, say, 9 years old, or at 15, or the young woman at 28. But I have always been capable of dealing rather rationally with most things, which is very helpful when bad things happened that I could not control.
    Your description and some of what the other readers before me have written in their comments is really very helpful in understanding a lot about other people. It is truly fascinating to see how different we are from each other.

  11. That's an interesting way of looking at life. I have many scars. Some I think about every day because I can't avoid seeing them, but they don't upset me. Others I seldom notice. I hope you can look at your scars without feeling the pain that caused them.


  12. As always, your writing is profound and I found this post to be especially reflective, for me, as one of your ardent readers. I am able to tap into and understand exactly what you are saying. I recognise the same attribute to disconnect in myself. I do not see it as a handicap. I think its called living in the present. Isn't that what we are all encouraged to do?

  13. After reading all previous comments, I can't help feeling that the writers thereof may well have learned much from a study of their own astrological birth charts, as interpreted by a competent astrologer...In my experience, one of this ilk certainly helped me in the 'O, to see ourselves as other's see us' stakes! Although I was familiar with my own self 'peeled from the mirror', I then learned to understand how/why the 'peeled' me came to exist.
    The ability to live 'in the now' is a lesson worth learning - or a gift, should one be blessed with the ability without having to strive for it! Ask any Buddhist...

  14. This is a terrific post, Friko, and one that will have all who read it, think about their past and the different episodes or phases of their lives.

  15. I like knowing someone who can do what you do, compartmentalize and distance oneself. I am one of the "others," the one who looks outward from every eye that was mine since birth. I can still feel 3 or 9 or 17 or 33. And at the same time, I can watch myself. Life is interesting, yes?

  16. What you've written here is very much an expression of my own experience. I've led such different lives in the course of my years, and in some important ways, I've been several different people. And yet, there is continuity: a core, an indefinable something that is being shaped, riped and matured through the various experiences and relationships.

    It's always been interesting to me that even the most painful, the most emotionally fraught experiences of my life, eventually disappear like a morning mist. I remember them. I can describe in detail what happened, or who said what to whom, but it's as though the emotion has been drained from them. I have friends who actively grieve parents gone for decades, or obsess over dissolved relationships or bad decisions. Sometimes I think I should try to do the same, but then I think: why? There's life to be lived, after all. Who wouldn't want to do that?

  17. Friko, may I tell you once again how fortunate I feel to have connected with you via blogging?

    As others have already commented, this particular post is very well written and encourages your readers to examine their own approach to then and now and the great inbetween that is life. The Walcott poem is a gem.

    Wishing that I could take a walk and talk more with you this afternoon. Perhaps another afternoon. xo

  18. It is interesting to consider how different people see life differently. We all have such different perceptions of the world but it is so easy to imagine that everyone is the same. I have never thought about my past in this way at all. I don't find it particularly easy to move on, but I must say that the me of the past is still recognisable yet I too feel as if she lived in a separate room. It would be interesting to hear what many others have to say about this. An interesting post.

  19. A most interesting perspective!

  20. Maybe if one lives in the same town all one's life , surrounded by family and old school friends , it's different ... but for those of us who haven't , morphing into someone totally different seems inevitable . And yes , the fifteen year-old me now seems as 'other' as a Martian !
    I'm always surprised how much I've managed to hang on to , perhaps because we've always spoken English at home , wherever we've been .
    And , of course , there are always family recipes ...

  21. For very non-narrative reasons, your post brought to mind a couple favorite lines from John Ashbery's The Skaters: "So much has passed through my mind this morning/That I can give you but a dim account of it." You know, I don't think anyone lives life as a continuous narrative. I suspect that when we're inclined to think that, it's because we're engaging in selective memory: taking only those "building blocks" that fit the narrative we'd like our lives to have. I'm actually not a fan of linear narrative, anyway. One of the big reasons I enjoy many John Ashbery poems has to do with their recognition and evocation of the non-narrative nature of living.

  22. I read your post yesterday and had to think about it for a while. I found it a fascinating glimpse into how another perceives their life, beautifully expressed. I strongly identify with one sentance - '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' except I've never thought of my core as being detached, just solid. I'm aware that others have seen this as aloofness or coldness but that's their problem and I know it not to be true. I've just never seen the point of dwelling on unfortunate events. Thank you for your thoughtful post and the poem.

  23. I had to think about this one for a while.
    Always felt I had this safe place inside of me. When I was 17, grabbed off the street walking home from a beach dance, beaten till knocked unconscious, and gang raped...I knew for sure. No matter what someone may do to me--my body--no matter how horrific or how painful--I have a safe place deep inside of me that cannot be touched. People may think my reactions to tragic events may be oddly calm, but it does not mean I do not feel deeply. Like you, I live very much in the present and do not believe dwelling on the past is a good choice. When I has only hurt me, never the people I was upset with--LOL!

    I wouldn't change anything in my life. (Was a lot of work getting to where I am today.) I have learned positive things even from the worst things that have happened. In fact, especially from those most painful things. But I have lived so many different lives just in this lifetime that sometimes, looking back, it seems hard to believe it all happened. But I was so present all the time that I feel I did the best I could under the circumstances as I went along...and that is all we can do. Do your best and move on. Gather up all the knowledge and keep moving.

    Having an unshakable core--that's a wonderful thing, Friko! Most people don't. So they don't understand it. But, like you said, that's their problem. A lot of people didn't understand why I was so happy for my BFF, Ruby, and for my dad when they died suddenly. I felt actual joy for was like their last wish come true...but that doesn't mean I didn't love them dearly, miss them, and feel sadness. But people's sadness is quite often for themselves and their loss. Not really for the people who died, you know? My opinion.

    I do have friends who have stayed with me over the years. They have been the ones who have accepted me as I am--through all the shifts and changes. Over the decades all the rest went by the wayside. I never worried about it. If I can't be myself then I don't need or want them around anyways. You need people around you who lift you up--not hold you down. I am very lucky to have people in my life who accept me as I am. But, truth--if none of them did, I would still have to be who I am without them.

    What a great post, lady! Thought provoking. I am glad you are who you are. There's nothing better in my book than people who know who they are and devil take the hindmost--lol!

  24. What an interesting post! It made me question how I see my life when I look back at it - and I don't see it as episodes but as my journey with a lot of detours. Sometimes I can still feel what I felt then in a special moment; some pain is still there; and even some embarrassment. It's odd sometimes. But I do see people who accompanied me for a certain time (episode) and then left my life again. I don't have lifelong friends either. I don't have many friends, period. But the few ones are really good ones and I believe there are a few now that one day I might call almost lifelong.

  25. Acceptance is a good thing.

  26. Your post also made me think of my past life and all in all it was a very good one. Of course there were dark periods but compared to my whole life they were rather short. One thing I realized, I now became the person I always wanted to be and that makes me happy.

  27. Friko, I read this post
    and cried.
    So many scars this once has
    and so many different lives
    but at this moment in a good place,
    blessings of wonderful children and grandchildren
    and life continues at a slower pace.
    Just wish memories
    of different times and places did not make an uninvited visit
    so unexpectedly and sometimes difficult for me to handle
    but do..

  28. For good or evil, I am the sum of all the episodes of my past. Is this a narrative? Then narratives are huge. Its a Gestalt thing!

  29. Something to think about, possibly I'm episodic too. I feel little or no connection to my childhood or teenage self. Perhaps it's just that I've grown so far away from her.

  30. Thought-provoking post. I think I do a little of both - in some ways I view my life is distinct phases and in others it is all webbed together.

  31. Amigo (a) estou dando uma passadinha no Blog com muito prazer e ficarei sempre, passando aqui. Um grande abraço: Manoel Limoeiro de: Recife – PE.
    Um bom de semana com as graças de: Deus.

    Visite meu Blog comunitário por favor:

    Recife, 28 de maio de 2015.

  32. This was an especially interesting post. I find myself spending way too much time trying to integrate the disconnected parts of my life. I can relate to much of what you say her about the rooms and a part of yourself being disconnected, but I keep going back and trying to make those connections. The way I do that is with people. Some people I should leave in the past where they belong, but I fail to do that.

    I know I've read that poem before. Thanks for sharing it. I really enjoyed it.

  33. Fascinating post and to crown it with a Derek Walcott poem is sublime. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  34. Gorgeous writing and thinking--I'm heading out to garden now, and I will let your ideas roll around in my mind as I yank weeds. For me, I do feel like the accumulation of all my experiences and phases, so it's a good challenge to consider feeling otherwise.

  35. This was a fascinating post. I visualize an episodic auto-biographical novel arising from one such as you. With a final chapter somewhat like that wonderful poem.

  36. I am very different. I do love the way you describe how your life appears to feel to you. My memories are quite vivd way back to my very early days. they are like photos that blend together and can be mixed and even re arranged in my imagination. Reality can be lost yet at the same time be right in my face. I have shifted culturally and tend to believe that plays some role in my self identity. I have yet to let readers in on a time in my life that is very different . Yet it is very dear to me.
    I do believe our way of coping with the timeline of our lives is very unique yet some aspects are like paths and do crisscrosses giving us little glimpses of each other.
    I love that I feel wiser now.


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