If you steal my notebook I will lose my mind

Sometimes my thoughts are better off alone, left to argue amongst themselves without being able to bother anyone else. In that sense, my notebook is an extension of my mind. The book itself is part of my memory and the words within are my memories, waiting there unnoticed until I seek them out and read them, much like my mind keeps my memories in cognitive slumber until they rise up into active consciousness again.

They are fragmented, disorganised, sometimes illegible, occasionally nonsense. Sometimes I don’t remember the thing I have written about, as though someone is telling me about something that happened to me that I just can’t recollect. Sometimes I get too many ideas while I’m writing something down and I end up writing something unintended and unrelated to what I was writing to begin with. Sometimes I smoke too much weed and suddenly realise something important, such as the meaning of life, but I have rendered myself incapable of following a thought through to its logical conclusion and I forget what I’m thinking before I’ve even had a chance to think it.

But wait, there are differences. I can leave my notebook in stupid places. Other people can read my notebook. I can destroy my notebook without losing cognitive function. My mind exists in a state of zero-gravity, where time and space are irrelevant. Memories float by as they please, never in the same order (or any order at all), bringing with them sensory impressions and emotional attachments. I can remember the texture of surfaces I felt over two decades ago. The words in the notebook will never evoke the actual feeling under my fingers of the glass in the window pane of my old front door, or the unholy pain in my chest and the internal screaming I experienced when some boy broke my heart.

In my head, thoughts loiter in dark corners. They change themselves even while I’m looking at them. Sometimes they step into the light and I see them for what they truly are, be it good or bad. Other times they shift into tortuous grievances that heckle me from the shadows, trying to frighten me, or upset me, or anger me. Sometimes they bring me peace. Other times they refuse to shut up. They get louder and louder until my mind can no longer take it and I take drastic measures to drown the fuckers out.

In my notebook, the words are only as dark as the room I am currently sitting in. Sometimes the words make me feel ashamed or excited, but only because they force me to recall the memory as it exists in my mind and that version has all these extra attachments. The words in the notebook forever remain exactly as I have written them. If I amend what I have written, then you can see a correction has been made even if you can’t make out what it originally said. The words are static. Unordered, but forever in the order in which they have been written. Torn-out pages leave behind ragged reminders that something once existed here; you might be relieved of its content but there will always be proof that some kind of mistake or unwanted memory was itself disposed of.

Memories in the mind are more frequently lost by accident, as opposed to deliberately disposed of. The mundane and uninteresting become forgotten as though they are not even given a chance to grow into a proper memory; the occasional one that slips through and remains with you forever is somehow awarded more importance even though you have no idea why it could be significant. Memories can be forcefully lost through both physical and mental trauma, but this process is random and carries with it prospects of partial or full recovery. A page torn out from a notebook leaves behind nothing but a ghost; subsequent destruction of the removed page means that the memories written upon it can never be brought to life again. But the difference is that trauma is generally accidental, whereas the removal of a page from a notebook is generally deliberate. It isn’t as easy to deliberately remove something specific from the mind. In order to forget it, you must never become consciously aware of it – but in order to never become consciously aware of it, you have to be consciously aware that there is something that you are trying to forget.

Memories are committed to mind through the depth of their impressions. Repeated conscious recollection will strengthen their effect. If we remember something incorrectly, this false memory becomes part of our perceived reality until we are corrected – if we ever are. Trying to purposefully remember something incorrectly is just as difficult as trying to purposefully forget something completely – the awareness of the deliberate mistake may form part of the memory itself, reminding you of the truth every time you think about the lie. There is simply very little control over certain aspects of our memory. It can change at whim. It can trick you into thinking that it is genuine even though it differs from how you recalled it yesterday. It can remain true whilst changing just enough to make you go from feeling happy to sad.

Meanwhile, the words in the notebook never change. You can scribble over them, you can Tipp-Ex them out, you can tear out parts of pages or stick something over them – but there will always be some evidence of tampering. Entries are deliberately recorded, meaning that every memory written in the notebook is consciously chosen – as is the amount of truthfulness each entry contains. The memory that is contained within the entry may have been recalled incorrectly at the time it was written; it may have been deliberately altered in order to disguise the truth from anyone who happened to snoop within its pages; it may have been deliberately altered so that it looks better on paper. It may have even been deliberately altered in order to take control of the narrative, to change an event so that it reaches a more satisfying conclusion – be it the outcome of a missed opportunity, the chance to get revenge or even just the exploration of a different version of events.

This is not so easily done with the memories inside your head. Even the most experienced dreamer, one who can suspend their belief and flit easily between reality and imagination, still has to avoid deceiving themselves by accident. The brain cannot always discern between an event that genuinely occurred and an event that was nothing more than a vivid visualisation. The same daydream played over and over can imprint itself upon the mind in the same way the repetitive recollection of an old memory can keep itself as detailed as though it happened only yesterday. The lines between the worlds become blurred, and it becomes difficult to remember why you’d want to live in a world where you couldn’t be the master of your own universe.

5 comments on “If you steal my notebook I will lose my mind

  1. This whole thing was brilliant. I write and store all my work electronically. I can’t really write, because I might change the order of lines, or words, or replace something. It’s permanent and private. But I am envious of people like you, who write on physical paper with pen, and risk losing memories as much as you are preserving them.

    • Thank you 🙂 In all honesty, I find it easier to write and store work electronically – I kind of read back while I’m writing and my brain is still working on stuff I’ve typed up so I’ll suddenly decide to add a word here or there or move a paragraph around and it’s so EASY. In a notebook, I have to draw arrows or scribble stuff out or whatever, and then I get anxious about messing my notebook up. Yet still I try to write pretty words in pretty notebooks.

      Honestly, it’s terrible, but somehow it brings me a bit of comfort. I think it springs from my pre-internet days, tbh

  2. I once lost a notebook – I think it was taken and believe me, I had anxiety attack for several weeks. I can totally relate.

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