On smelling my memories….

Any time I’m asked, “If you had to live without one of your senses, which would it be?” I generally respond with, “I can’t possibly choose.” But if there’s a sense that evokes the strongest emotions and memories in me, I’d probably have to go with smell.
Sight is a funny one. I love seeing things like sunsets and graduations and lightning storms, but I also get really queasy at the sight of blood…to the point that some scenes in SCRUBS has caused me to gag a little.
Taste is one that I could never do without…mostly because I love food so frickin’ much! I’ve tasted some disgusting things in my life…mushrooms, ultra-hoppy beer, deep-fried artichoke hearts. But for all the ick, there’s eleven billion times more deliciousness.
Touch is…questionable. Most of the things I hate in life (courduroy, certains types of t-shirts, mushrooms, pruny skin) generally have to do with texture. Most of the things I love in life also have to do with texture…the feeling of a long-needed hug, the way my hands feel after a paraffin wax dip, rinsing conditioner out of my hair. I love it all.
Hearing is one that’s a no-brainer for me. My life would be much less interesting and fulfilled without all the music and laughter I have grown to love. But oh how I hate the sound of a fire alarm chirp or a yippy dog barking next door at 2am.
But smell? There are just so many to choose from. And they seem to come about at the most random moments.
The cologne of a boy I liked in high school…helps me remember all the pretty dresses I wore to formals in high school and who I went with to them.
Any time the R&D folks whip up a new pizza at work….mostly just makes me think about how much I love pizza.
A wood burning fireplace…makes me remember when my dad would make a big fire at 5am and put our pre-chosen clothes on the hearth so they were warm when we’d wake up for school.
Skunks…makes me giggle thinking about the one time my dad actually got sprayed. It also just makes me think about the house I grew up in and all the fun we had on all that land.
The perfume my mom wore when I was a little girl…makes me remember wanting to be grown up enough to wear it myself.
Fresh baked sourdough bread….makes me miss my grandpa so much it hurts, but also helps me remember every Christmas break I ever spent with all of my grandparents and how much I loved doing that (despite my extreme opposition of the roadtrips to get there).
Not all smells make me think happy thoughts.
Tequila and blueberries reminds me of some painful years and poor choices.
Brisk fall air is a double-threat, making me think simultaneously about football and delicious soups and hot cider, but also about the lazy, cold days of high school, sitting in the front room watching movies totally oblivious to the pain and commotion surrounding me.
York peppermint patties makes me laugh pretty hard when I think about wallpapering my dorm room with the wrappers with my best friend…but that smell also makes me think about how that was one of the worst and hardest years I’ve gone through to date and every bad thing associated with it.
I can’t always choose when I smell one thing or another. I’m always grateful for the happy smells, especially the ones that are few and far between (the fire place or the bread). Sometimes, I’ll even stalk the smells just because I know how happy they’ll make me. Some are unavoidable, like the fall air…particularly in Colorado. So I force myself to remember the good in those moments. Cheering at a football game. Snuggling on the couch and watching crappy television. Going to the mall and wandering aimlessly because, hey, that’s what we did in high school. Spilling coffee on the ceiling of my dorm room with said roommate (don’t ask. It’s a very long story). Staying up late to finish term papers and a pot of coffee.
It’s not that I’m ignoring the painful parts of my life (or the lives of the ones with me). It’s that I’m choosing instead to focus on the good. There will be bad, no matter what. It’s a near-certainty. It’s just that going through the pain is hard enough the first time. And while it’s pretty much inevitable (for me, anyway) that those hard parts of my memory will come screaming back when I least expect it (and with as much force and indignity as the first time), I know that I have some happy things stocked up to drown out the bad.
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