“Isn’t that your ex-fiancé?” asked my friend looking at a glossy, landscape, hardcopy photograph of Mr. X and myself in our glory days.
“Yes,” I casually answered, pretending not to remark the insinuation made by her eyebrows arching far under her fringe.
“And isn’t this that childhood friend of yours that dropped out of your life without a word?” she asked waving the next page in my photo album in front of my nose, “Why do you keep these people in your album, Ina?” she reprehended more than asking, brows still locked behind her fringe.
I didn’t have to think long. I knew “why”, even though I could also rationalize that keeping printed photographs of those who have faded away from our lives, leaving us with a broken heart, is not a ‘normal’ thing to do. People are more likely to throw away, or even burn them, in an attempt to exorcise all the memories. But there is something about that part of the grieving process that just does not sit well with me.
Pictures are slices of moments frozen in time, moments long gone, moments that are impossible to reproduce. Each of them unique. Taken mostly at happy occasions, at merry Christmases and birthdays. Like beads on a necklace, they accessorize our memory, concealing the knots on the string. But knots are inevitable, they make up the necklace just as the beads do. They keep the beads in place.
People will come into our lives and we’ll spend precious years getting to know each other, sharing our deepest fears and secrets, sharing some of our most photobook-worthy moments with them. But as nothing is eternal, many of those relationships will dissolve. Loved ones will leave our lives, never to return again. Bonds will be broken.
Choosing to slice and freeze the time on the point of breaking, is to deny that precious “beads” once decorated our bond. To erase those people from our memory tallies with erasing years’ worth of glorious moments from our lives. And instead of pretty necklaces, our lives would then be made of broken, grey, lonely strings; our photo albums – of lifeless, empty pages.
So I choose to be as selective with the memories that I allow to perch in my mind, as I am with selecting the photos that go into my albums. I zoom in and sharpen the focus on all the happy moments, and discard all the blurry shots. Some faces may no longer be part of my life, but they were part of it once and have one way or another earned their page in my photo album. Pruning them now, just because those people are longer by my side, would imply that my love for them was a conditional thing. That love was just a remittance paid for being in a relationship and that as soon as the relationship ended, the lease expired and with it all rights to treasure the times we spend together.
Everything in life, just as life itself is transient. We don’t choose whom we love, and we don’t always have a say at how, or when love will end. To resist, or resent endings, is to resist and resent life itself. Permanence is impossible, only change is certain.
As this year comes to a close, may the (mental) photographs you shortlist to illustrate it be stunning spreads of rich, merry memories. May the albums you take with you into 2016 be thick and dense. No bulges. No gutter! And most of all, may the love you carry in your hearts be unconditional, unbound from the status-quo of your relationships.