There is so much truth in William Faulkner’s famous quote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”  Though our bodies live in linear time, our minds, memories, and souls seem to lift off from the grounded earthy realms to thoughts, dreams, memories, as we are transported into timeless places.

Memoirists, poets, writers of any genre come to think of it, place themselves in the possibility world,the world of what if and if only. The world of memory, imagination, and associations. We could call it a dream world, if we include the waking dream that we enter when we muse, when we scribble and remember. The practical down to earth people around us may not understand our desire to time travel, to lift off like this into feathery illusory worlds, but therein lies the difference between artists and everyone else. To us, this world is real, it is fodder for our work, it is our garden, and from it we harvest the raw materials that we turn into art.

Some of the dreams and memories that haunt us may not be our happiest times. Psychology research has shown that the dark moments can get “stuck” in our brain memory system, and that writing can help unlock this pattern, as can therapy techniques. However, writing is a way to enter this portal as we listen to the murmurings of our own mind. This fluid and dreamy part of ourselves is revealed on the page, perhaps even more than in conversation.

I have reflected upon the dark dreams that began from my experience with an abusive, slightly related family whom I lived with when I was five. The dreams, fears, and trauma lingered far longer than the year I spent with them. But one day in my middle years and in the middle of writing my memoir, I would confront those dreams and wrestle them into current reality. There is a story about how the “presentpast “offered a way out, but first I have to dip into what happened and how it haunted most of my life until I confronted the past in the present.

And this made me wonder.  How does your “presentpast,” offer a way out for you?  Have you confronted the past in the present?

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