Memories Without Emotion

My most recent previous post on my trip ‘down the rabbit hole’ of self-discovery was in December. I’ve had another 5 sessions since then, but won’t be posting every little detail or discovery. Suffice it to say that hypnosis has confirmed to me that some experience has suppressed the bulk of my memories up to a point in time when the family lived in North Bay, ON. As noted in a previous post, some of the details from this journey will not be posted here. Just as I don’t ‘out’ queer people who are not working against our rights, I won’t take it upon myself to broadcast private details that others are not ready to share. This is about my experience, my self-discovery.

Hypnotherapy has, for now, done what it will and we’re using other techniques/ strategies to help me uncover and process whatever has put the memory block in place. Yesterday’s session dealt with newer memories; ones that I have not been repressing. Memories of events more recent than the block, although almost 40 years old at this point. Instead of blocking the details, I have blocked any emotional attachment or reaction to the memories. That is, I have talked about the experiences from time-to-time, but in a very ‘journalistic’ “just the facts, Ma’am” way. By the way, that oft-quoted phrase is generally credited to the character of Joe Friday from ‘Dragnet’ – see this Snopes entry for the facts behind the phrase. Ah the tenuous ties that bind memories and truth.

While I’ve known and accepted (at least in the rational portions of my brain) that memories are not as solid as we like, want, need(?) to think, it is unsettling to realize my own vary from mutable to vague to locked within a vault that would serve Fort Knox well. I’m 57 and have been openly gay/queer for most of that time (I came out as gay in 1978; self-identifying as queer for almost two decades). I’ve long preached the importance of ‘knowing one’s Self’ and ‘facing one’s demons’ (the use of impersonal expressions is, of course, intentional).

I digress. The two main emotionally-neutered memories that were the topics of yesterday’s sessions involve, first, a pattern of fainting and second, the way I marked my 20th birthday.

Although I don’t recall exactly how many times I fainted over the years we lived in south-western Ontario (1967-77) I do recall two specific instances and believe there were others. In conversation with my siblings one shared the following memory:
I was with you in Canadian Tire when you just collapsed to the ground. I sort of caught you, but was worried about you hitting the deck. I remember we were at the back of an aisle and I remember the bright lights and the look of the industrial floor tiling. Whoever was with us (Mom, likely) said it was nothing and things that like that sometimes happen. Can’t remember any other time when it happened, but she was not much fazed by it, so it must have been a somewhat-expected event (because it had been happening lately? or because of some medication or some-such?).
That is one of the two I am sure of; the other was in our kitchen, around the same time. As I said, I believe there were other occasions, but don’t recall details. And I don’t recall needing medication for anything beyond head aches, etc. But as I said in my first post on therapy, “ I do recall a few times that suggest there were unspoken limits as to which topics could be addressed.” Such vagueness is unsettling to an anal-retentive ‘control freak’. Just sayin…

Moving on to my 20th birthday; July 25, 1978.
After graduating High School the year before, I had moved to the nearest small city and started working on a camera store. I joined a newly-formed community theatre group, changed jobs, came out in the local newspaper, and then was fired from the Photo Department of K-Mart. After a few months of unsuccessful job hunting I moved to Toronto in 1978; Dad had taken a job at Head Office and my parents let me stay in their apartment while I got ‘my feet on the ground’.

The pharmacy in the mall beneath Dad’s office hired me to run their Photo Department; pretty much just selling film while taking in and handing back processed film. I doubt that anyone ever looked at the basic equipment in the display cases. I had been working there for a few months (don’t recall my exact start date) when I met with the Pharmacist/ Co-owner and announced that I needed to take a week off, fairly immediately. I said I hoped that my job would still be available when I got back, but I needed to take care of myself.

I did not say any of that as a ploy just to get a vacation- although I have no recollection of what I was thinking (by which I mean, of course, feeling) at the time. I am very sure that I was acting from a place of self-preservation. As I’d been ‘living at home’ and had just discovered the world of gay bars, clubs and bath houses, I had some money. My bus journey took me to the historic area in Virginia run by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The family had visited it once before, as an adjunct to visiting our Aunt Gerry (first wife of Mom’s brother) in Richmond VA. As both a history buff and a frustrated architect, I had fallen in love ‘at first sight’.

I shot about a dozen rolls of slide film and some additional print film. But the highlight of my trip was rising before daybreak on the morning of my birthday, walking from my motel room to the Historic Area, and watching the sun rise on my birthday. I don’t ever recall being a ‘morning person’. The sunrise over a field of hay, distant sounds of animals (cows, iirc), historic re-enactors and other staff walking to work, a slight haze in the air. One of my strongest, happiest, memories.

I did, in fact, return to my job at the Pharmacy’s film counter. I worked there until I was laid low for months with both Strep Throat and Mono… yes I had by then started to explore what it meant to be a young, single, gay man in the City.

The memories of that trip are strong; what prompted it is still vague. As I said at the beginning I have shared these facts or contemplated the memories, but without any emotional response. Until Friday.

While vacuuming the Call Centre (so, an hour or two before the end of the shift) I was thinking about the latter story; the birthday trip. I revisited CWF for my 40th birthday and repeated the sunrise ritual alone while my partner at the time stayed in bed. I am about two years away from my 60th birthday. When I first felt my chest tighten I presumed it was the thought of being too poor to even think of making the trip. But the pressure moved to a more general discomfort, much stronger than previous anxiety attacks. And without any sense of it being a heart attack. My vision was not blurry, yet not focused. I was barely aware of what was around me. I think that if I had not already experienced a less-dramatic attack this one would have really terrified me.

I quickly made my way to a darkened office that I’ve used during earlier attacks; feet flat in the floor while I focus on my breath, being aware of what is still visible in the dark. Being here and now. The attack passed.

The title of this post is a riff on a line from this poem of mine:
Perfect pink pandas
(Wearing navy blue ribbons)
Play in the fields of eternity.
Mauve dandelions waste their
Seed upon the constant breeze.
Time is measured in soft moonlight;
Sleepless nights without emotion.

A perfect sunrise reveals the presence
Of a steel-grey grizzly (unadorned).
Moving softly across eternity
She leaves only burnt umber.
Two score days of rain wash away
Ashes–leaving a field of rock,
Barren earth, eternal silence.
© Copyright 1995 by Brian Gryphon – All Rights Reserved


Related Posts:
Don’t Cry Out Loud (Therapy Post #1)
Deep Within I Know I’m Free (Therapy Post #2)
Circumstantial Evidence (Therapy Post #3)
Therapy As Art (Images of Therapy)

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