This is a question that has been with me for years. Nearly thirty years actually. I touched upon it briefly in my disclaimer here on this blog. As an author of memoirs, this is an important question.
The moment we are born into a body, we get influenced by our surroundings, but very few of us are aware of our filters. Being born a female for example, still offers a very different experience than being born a male. Since becoming a parent and thus being thrown into the playground, there is not a day when I don’t see parents influencing their kids’ gender stereotype. I tried to keep it as neutral as possible for my kids but the mere fact they have rubbed shoulders with other kids in school has made sure my efforts were counteracted very quickly. It also happened with the fathers of my children. When their toddler sons got too near my earrings and make up, they were discouraged from exploring their options, as if their maleness were threatened by their interest. The bias is strong. Even last night, as we went into the fabric shop with both my son and my daughter, the shop attendant asked if my daughter had started sewing, not my son.
So what is truth? What is reality? It is very hard to collect facts when our emotions are concerned. Our senses are affected by how we feel but also what we think. What we think is the truth might not be the truth after all. And is that really the point? Are facts the only thing that matter? If we are scientists in a lab, hell yes. If we are police officers investigating a crime scene, another hell yes. But if we are human beings loving our lives, why can’t we have our truth? And why can’t our truth be respected? Arguments usually revolve around two or more people disagreeing over something.
Last time I visited my family, I was really surprised at the version of “facts” that my brother gave about the circumstances under which our hamster pet died when we were kids. I had a clear memory that “we” as a family had forgotten the hamster in the garage of our week ended cottage in Normandy whereas my brother was convinced he was responsible. Luckily, my sister was able to confirm my version of facts but what if she hadn’t? I suppose we need to try to make sense of what happens to us but we also need to be aware of how our brain rearranges facts to fit our beliefs. It’s in the nature of the hippocampus to sort out memories and clump them into clusters.
Getting back to my memoirs, most if it I know happened as I retraced it, especially the parts that happened in 2013, but as far as the long term past is concerned, I am aware that my mother and my siblings may have very different ideas of what happened than mine. Even within a family circle parents do not treat their children the same way. It has to do with the fact that siblings are usually very different. They come with their own personality. And parents evolve. They grow and learn. That’s why younger siblings are susually treated more leniently than older ones, much to the dismay of the first borns.
Still, I stick by my truth. My memoirs are a genuine account of what happened to me. They are my truth. They are the result of fifty years of existence in Ange’s world. I hope you enjoy reading them when they come out in January 2017.
(C) Ange de Lumiere 2016