Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Sunday I wrote about the script Tony left open for me.  Today I want to talk about the movie made from that script, and the interpretation that I am applying to my own life. 

The six words “eternal sunshine of the spotless mind” are from a poem by Alexander Pope, Eloisa to Abelard:

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!

The film, for those who don’t know, is about a company called Lacuna that can erase a person from another person’s memory.  After a painful breakup, Clementine has Joel erased from her mind and when he finds out, he retaliates and begins to have her erased.  But somehow, the process of erasure – the gradual eradication of all the memories, good and bad – makes him fall in love with her all over again.  At that point the movie becomes a race through Joel’s mind, as he tries desperately to find a place to hide his precious memories before they are all, irretrievably, gone.

His effort fails, and his memory of her is gone.  Or is it?  At the end of the process, as his memory of meeting her blows away in the Montauk breezes, she whispers to him something she never said in life: Meet me in Montauk.  The next morning he awakens, ditches work for reasons he doesn’t understand, and takes the train to Montauk.  And there, he meets (or re-meets) Clementine.

I love this film so much, because to me the message is that love, even when it hurts, is worth it.  That you can’t have the good parts of another person without accepting the flawed parts too.  We can close ourselves off to hurt, but if we do that, we are also shutting out the possibility of joy. 

I could shut out my memories of Tony, good and bad, in an effort to heal myself.  I have struggled to even remember the good times.  The day we met online.  Our first conversation, when he charmed me and made me laugh with his spot-on impression of Cary Grant, with whom he shared a birthday.  Our first date. Our first kiss.  Our drive cross-country, reading Mark Helprin’s “Winter’s Tale” out loud and listening to the one CD we had with us.  Unbeknownst to me, he’d kept Dar Williams’ “The Beauty of the Rain” unpacked because he knew I loved her music, and forevermore that CD will be the soundtrack of our trip.  Because if I remember those good times, I also have to remember the frightening meltdown he had in Laramie, Wyoming when our trailer hit a speed bump, hard.  I have to remember the times that he was in such a dark place I was afraid he would never come out.  The times he struggled with his ability to trust other people, or wanted to stay away from our friends.  The times we fought and his angry words hurt me, and mine hurt him back. 

In the end, I don’t want to forget the good times.  I don’t even want to forget the bad times, not really.  They were part of our story.  They are.  They always will be.  So my decision regarding that script is to hold it in my heart as an expression of love for me.  To imagine that his thoughts were of me, that he was asking me not to forget him.  Not to let go of any of the memories.  To accept that, although he was choosing to write a tragic end for our love story, it is still a love story. 


8 thoughts on “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

  1. Our Creator made good and bad, the ying and the yang if you will, in order to create harmony in nature and in all of us. Without one, there cannot be the other. We cannot know love without knowing hate or anger… and therefore, I have (to ease my own grief that I carry) accepted that we should relish the good times and memories, though it is okay to remember the bad times too. These things make us who we are and who we will grow into. Someone told me as if it would relieve my grieving, “live for the living” as if it should be okay to forget the bad – the loss. I have come to grips with that while I do live for the living and cherish each moment much more than I ever did before, it is okay to remember or reminisce about the past, and it is okay to have those bad thoughts and sometimes I too get angry and cry… yet this cleanses me, makes me more stronger and resolute, and I move on. Maybe that is what the Creator thought when He created the good and the bad. I hope and pray that you will heal and understand in your own way.

  2. Wonderfully written and amazingly comforting. Crystal clear. My heart aches for you and rejoices for you all at once. XO

  3. can I just say that you are a really amazing person and I want to read these over and over again? I can’t begin to understand all the layers of meaning packed into this, but it is just so powerful. I love how chilling your ending paragraphs are.

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