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triggered memories

December 10, 2016

Why are certain experiences so powerfully linked to emotional memories? I’m sure there’s a scientific answer, but I’m not a scientist. So, I’m just going to think out loud for a few moments.

I’m sitting at Starbucks, minding my own business, when an Instagram video of a restaurant in South Minneapolis scrolls by. That just happens to be the location of one my ex and I’s last date. It’s just a stupid 3-second boomerang loop of a bowl of curry, yet my heart and mind are now flooded with emotion. I instantly remember the signs on the walls, the jokes she made about how I think I can handle spicy foods but can’t, and walking hand-in-hand down Nicollet. I remember the smell of the Greek restaurant we walked past while planning our future together. Heck, I could tell you exactly what she was wearing. That date was 4 months ago. I haven’t even seen her for 3 months. So how could everything rush to the top of my mind so quickly?

A friend of mine lives right across the street from the apartment where my ex-fiancee lived while we were together 10 years ago. Every time I’m there I remember our first kiss, freezing January nights serving food to passersby, and the smell of the shampoo she used.

How can my brain store such detailed information? Why do I so vividly remember the smell of an ex’s perfume, let alone the way she wrote my name or the sound garage door makes?

The common theme is the deep meaning of these details. When you’re in a relationship, you notice the details. You remember the conditioner she uses so you can show up with more when she’s out. You remember the taste of the lip gloss on your first kiss’s lips, because it is an incredibly meaningful experience.

My exes are a part of who I am, because those relationships shaped how I now i view the world.

Lately I’ve wished the memory removal procedure in the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind actually existed. Too many memories are triggered every day, and I wonder if I’ll ever be able to get over her. “If only I didn’t remember what happened at Lake Calhoun, things would be so much easier!”

But that’s not reality. I will always remember the people who played important roles in my life.

I want to learn how to be thankful for those memories. I want to walk into our favorite coffee shop and remember the happiness of the many conversations we had over steaming cups of caffeine. I want to walk into Trader Joe’s and remember the reason I can now stomach a glass of red wine.

Our past experiences make up our current reality. I would not be the Clayton you know today without the people who participated in my life. For that, I am grateful.

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