I first read What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty in 2019, and my original review is at that link. It’s a full review, spoiler-free, so if you’re looking for that, head back there. In 2019, I read and reread What Alice Forgot all through the month of May. It really helped me with my May PTSD triggers and flashbacks. Last year, I revisited the book once in May, and this year, it’s been a number of times, because I’m not as healthy mentally as I was in 2020. (Ironic, yeah?) There’s a line from the book in particular that has struck me this year:
One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot is how I would feel if I lost ten years of my memory, and what things would surprise me, or please me, or upset me about how my life had turned out.
This is a big part of the book – what would it be like to mentally step back 10 years in time, with no memory of the intervening years? How would your life look to your 10-years-younger self? What would surprise or horrify you, and what would fill you with joy? I didn’t ponder this question much the last two years, because 2009- and 2010-me weren’t exactly in good places. 2009-me hadn’t even found out what was causing all the illnesses yet. But 2011-me was actually in quite a good place.
This is May 2011 Manda. The picture was taken in Baltimore. Jason had a conference in Baltimore for a few days, and I decided to tag along as a kind of personal vacation where all I had to pay for was my plane ticket and food. Win! In Baltimore, I met up with fellow book blogger Heather one day, spent another day hanging out in DC, spent mornings jogging along the harbor or in the hotel gym, and spent evenings going out for dinner with Jason.
It was a really good time in my life. The previous December, I’d made a deal with myself. I was going to lose 50 lbs in 2011, or I was going to begin the process of having bariatric surgery. In January, my efforts were haphazard and scattered, but with the discovery of Sparkpeople in late February, things snapped into place. I began counting calories. I made friends with other Spark folks in town, forming a support group around me. The weight began to come off consistently for the first time in my life. In that photo from Baltimore, I’d lost 25 lbs in 2011, the halfway point. Those pants fit me for the first time in years. I was so happy, and so confident in my ability to keep going. Even silly little things like taking photos of the snack labels on the plane (to track later) made me happy, because it was all working toward an end.
In the ten years since then:
- I continued to lose weight, hitting my end-goal in early 2013, then maintained the loss for almost two years before suddenly regaining tons very quickly with no explanation that doctors can find. I am currently heavier than I began 2011 and almost up to my highest weight ever from 2009, and I think my 2011 self would be unable to believe either the thin years or the regain.
- my family sold our beloved house –> , moved to Boston, then moved across the country a further three times, making it four times in three years, and now are saddled with far more debt. My 2011 self would be appalled that we sold the house. We chose that house as our forever house, and she’d grieve for it. I loved that house. Still do, honestly. I miss the very small mortgage, too.
- my kids of course have gotten older, two now being adults and one only a year off from that. My oldest, in particular, has had a lot of struggles in the last ten years, which likely began before our move to Boston, but which really exploded because of that, and my 2011-self would be screaming at me, of course that’s what did it you idiot, this is why you said you’d never move your kids across the country once they were in school, you know how much you hated that yourself and you swore you’d never do that to them! Plus my 2011-self would mourn all the memories lost in that missing decade. One of those kids isn’t even living at home anymore!
- I began drinking coffee and alcohol. My 2011-self didn’t drink either. It would be interesting to see how that played out, especially with the coffee addiction. Maybe it would be easier to break that habit if I lost that memory, heh.
- I underwent abdominal surgery in 2014 to repair muscle and skin damage from my third pregnancy (yes, ten years later – it was considered “cosmetic” despite my abdominal muscles being five inches separated!). My 2011-self would have been THRILLED about her stomach. She might have thought it looked a bit weird, but she would have been stoked about the repair.
- my marriage went through an extremely rocky 2014/2015 and nearly ended in divorce, and while things are much better, they still aren’t – and never will be – what they were before then. I think this would be the thing that caused young-me the most pain and confusion.
- several family members have died, one sister has gotten married and had three kids, another sister has gotten divorced and later remarried, and so many other changes from my cousins and extended family. That would be another mourning-lost-memories moments. There would be a lot of grief, I think.
- I got a lot of cats. In 2011, there was only one. Now there are five, and the one that was around in 2011 is very sick and won’t make it much longer. My 2011-me didn’t particularly like or want pets. I mean, I liked Ash, but I wasn’t particularly attached to animals. I would be extremely bewildered how I got to the place I’m at today.
Those are the big ones. It’s a lot to take in, a decade of lost time. And it makes me wonder what changes such a memory loss – even a temporary one – might result in. Maybe improvement in my marriage, with the less-complicated feelings of before. Maybe I’d be able to quit drinking coffee. Maybe I’d be less exhausted and jaded by trying to lose weight, without ten extra years of baggage. Or maybe I’d just be horrified that I’m still going through the same struggles ten years later. Who knows?