Music is a powerful prompt for memories. I've heard that smells are that way, too, but music seems to be either a more powerful, or perhaps just more ubiquitous, cause. While I drive, which is frequently these days as I carpool the kids, I often listen to the radio. I have several stations preset in the car, and all of them play classic rock or a mix of new hits as well as old. Lately I've noticed the music keeps taking me back in time. Sometimes I don't even recognize what is happening. It starts out as a daydream, where I suddenly recall people, places, and events from 25 or 30 years ago. I've only just started to realize it's the music that starts these "flashbacks."
Of course, there are certain songs that put me back to a very particular place and time. Like "I Shot the Sheriff" by Clapton. I was working with my best friend as a waitress at a restaurant that served mainly pizza and sandwiches. It was called The Chat and Chew. I kid you not. Much of the time I worked there, Clapton's song was on the charts, and it was playing on the jukebox several times and hour. It's a good song to work to, with a lively beat and catchy tune. The problem is, thinking about that job makes me think of many other things going on around that time that I'd rather not remember. Like my friend, who moved out to California and lost touch.
That's the whole problem with these music-driven memories. You can't control them. They take you back whether you want to go or not, and they take you to the whole time period, warts and all.
It was a song that spurred my Gallop Down Memory Lane last week, for example. While I loved thinking about Rightpot and being an exercise rider, I don't want to remember other things from that summer. In fact, I don't seem to be able to think about my racing days without more pain and regrets than fondness. It's a shame, too, because I loved the horses. It had been my life's dream to work full time in some aspect of the horse world. The horses were great. The circumstances were not.
Part of the pain associated with the memories are nostalgic. To be young, strong, fit, and on a horse again! To have the illusion of freedom in my life and choices. To have that carelessness that youth has, taking it all for granted. Thinking you'll never really be older and grayer. Or perhaps simply not thinking about it at all. Because who at 2o can understand what it is to be 40, or 50, or 60? But a 50 year old like myself can remember what it was like to be 20. Yes, some of the pain is simply the desire for what is gone- youth, energy, and abandon.
But most of the discomfort in the memories is not what I want back, but what I wish I'd never experienced to begin with. Along with the supposed freedom of youth comes the choices one lives to regret, the failings one wishes to forever erase. Alongside the joy at being young, healthy, and doing something I loved, were four years of a dysfunctional marriage, betrayal, anger, revenge, and regret. It's not just what was done to me that I want to forget, but what I did to others as I lashed back, sought comfort, gave up, and finally left.
For 25 years I've mainly pushed the memories back while I've focused on my wonderful husband and family. Along with the bad memories, I've had to push the good ones back, as well. Yet as Trisha Yearwood put it, the song remembers when.
But that's just a lot of water
Underneath a bridge I burned
And there's no use in backtrackin'
Around corners I have turned
Still I guess some things we bury
Are just bound to rise again
For even if the whole world has forgotten
The song remembers when
So now I'm walking, and galloping, down memory lane, and it's a mixed bag of emotions. I guess in part I'm showing a sort of pathetic mid-life yearning for youth. But also, I'm just doing what we all do- trying to learn how to grow old gracefully. For me that means facing down a few demons and coming to grips with the forward march of time.