Choose Memory…..

6 degrees
6° F – so cold and bleak

In January people are often concerned with looking forward, making new resolutions , moving on. But what about remembering? What, or rather how, do you choose to remember?

On Tuesday it was 6°F, bitter cold – but a few days later it’s 60° F. I can choose what to remember about this and how to remember it  –  the temperature was a fact but there was beauty and some excitement in the extreme.

Joy Harjo’s poem Remember (which I have used in groups recently  – one person said ‘at last you’ve found one I like!’), invites us to remember many things about ourselves and the world. She exhorts us to connect with our lives and our worlds, and encourages resilience and strength. It begins:

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.

and continues with invitations to remember many things including:

Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.

The poem calls us to Remember, as an injunction, 15 times.

People in my groups wrote deeply and movingly in different ways in response to this. Several people wrote about mothers, living or dead, someone wrote emotionally about her mother but also compassionately about her troubled self when her mother died. Some people wrote about their values and their beliefs, others wrote about specific people or events. They saw that they could choose what and how to remember – in writing about the past they chose how to think about it.

Jean-Paul Sartre said that there are things about the past that can’t be changed or denied, the facticity, but we can choose to change our attitude to those things.

In Christmas Days – 12 stories and 12 feasts for 12 days Jeanette Winterson echoes this:

…it’s a fact that our memories change as we do….you can go back in time, you can heal the past. It may be fixed as a fact – what happened happened – but it isn’t fixed in the ongoing story of our lives.


6 degrees and sunny
6°F and so beautiful and sunny

Journal prompt: Think about things you want to remember, choose the details and the attitude. Write a list poem (or simply a list) beginning each line:


When you’ve finished read it through and give yourself some feedback beginning:

When I read this I feel………….

As 2018 begins – choose what you want to remember and what you want to bring with you. Leave a comment below.



The first few pages…….

Sometimes you may read a book which you wish you could have written – because it tells your story or it doesn’t.  In Why be Happy when you could be Normal? Jeannette Winterson has written  a memoir of adoption which is both universal and utterly unique.

Unique: Whilst she is not alone in having a violent and abusive mother and a silent, disengaged father (“He had never talked much, him being clumsy and unsure with language.”    “….he didn’t fight for me”), her adoptive mother, Mrs Winterson, with her sadistic blend of violence, withdrawal and Pentecostal religion is monstrous beyond belief,  ‘she was a monster but she was my monster’.

The one good thing about being shut in a coalhole is that it prompts reflection.

Universal: The adoptee’s fear of abandonment, of never being loved enough, of never really, really being wanted (“How do you trust another person to love you? I had no idea . I thought love was loss”). She speaks of having 2 failed families – the birth family and the adoptive family –   “the first one was not my fault but all adopted children blame themselves”

Adoption begins on your own – you are solitary. The baby knows it has been abandoned

And literature saved her life: It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place. Fiction and poetry are doses, medecines. What they heal is the rupture reality makes on the imagination.

It’s a quest story but ultimately a redemption story – of becoming ‘because’ not ‘despite’

Journal prompt

“We need better stories about adoption”

Do you have an adoption story to tell?

Adopted children are self-invented because they have to be….adoption drops you into the story after it has started . It’s like reading a book with the first few pages missing…..The feeling that something is missing never, ever leaves you…..

BUT  The missing part, the missing past, can be an opening, not a void.

What are the first few pages of your story?