Monday, 14 March 2016

Memento Mori

I've been drawn to Memento Mori lately. It's a phrase that's almost romantic, even though the subject is much grimmer than anything love has to offer. Gretchen Rubin examined Memento Mori in her book 'The Happiness Project' and so I felt inspired to do something similar.

A Memento Mori is a keepsake reminder that we are all mortal. 
Dante's 'Inferno'
Oxford Dictionaries defines the phrase as such;
"an object serving as a warning or reminder of death, such as a skull."
in Latin - 'remember (that you have) to die'.

But where does one turn to find their own memento?

As it's rather macabre, I thought reading about the dead would help me feel inspired. I turned to Dante's 'Inferno' to learn about the circles of hell. It didn't help. Reading about the gruesome torture of sinners isn't nearly as inspiring as one might think.

My Journals
So I turned to my own journals. From 2008 to 2012 I kept journals where I wrote lines, poems, paragraphs, lyrics that helped me to deal with the external and internal struggles I faced. These too, at times, are often macabre. Every pain, every hurt, every moment of self-hatred is conveyed in writing. It's troublesome to read the sombre tone of the writings. I truly was someone without hope. I was someone who recorded their wish for death in writing.

My journals got me thinking some more about Memento Mori.

Is it harder for someone with a mental illness to keep a reminder of their imminent death?

Perhaps even harder again for someone who has battled with suicidal thoughts. Do I need to have a reminder of my mortality when I have been consumed by thoughts of death?

I know that I am mortal because I have made myself bleed and bruise and cry.
I have self-inflicted scars from when I tested my own morality.
I have tried to bring myself closer to death by attempting suicide.

I do not need an object or memento of my mortality.

My Memento Mori is the poems and writings I keep from the times I was at my lowest.

My Memento Mori is the scars the grace me.

My Memento Mori is the fact that I’m here today, that despite longing for death and despite seeking death, I lived.

Meg Jay, author of 'The Defining Decade', argues that instead of a Memento Mori what we need is Memento Vivi - "ways to remember to live".
I love how she turned a centuries old phrase on its head. For me, it's important to look towards the future and ways to live, rather than to spend too much time dwelling on the past and death.
Now I just need to make a note of what my Memento Vivi are.

Do you have a Memento Mori or Memento Vivi?

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