I have a notoriously bad memory. I will willingly admit this and with unusual self-awareness and dash of humor explain that any memory that is slightly unsightly about myself is about 99% blocked. “Remember that time you had friends over and had a pudding fight while we were out?” my mom will ask. Pudding fight? I don’t even like pudding. Friends laugh and think I am kidding but I am not.
There is an Iranian Proverb, The best memory is that which forgets nothing but injuries. Write kindness in marble and write injuries in the dust.
I am pretty sure that for me this dust thing is part of my coping mechanism, and all joking aside I think that is what I do. I ostrich. But instead of burying my whole head in the sand I selectively tip the injuries out and carry on.
Overall I am cool with this strategy, but I do wonder what I am missing. I’ll listen to my sister recant her memories of our childhood, or my daughter tell the story of how I sent her to Kindergarten on the bus only to have her arrive on a day there was no Kindergarten. (This one makes sense as it does imply bad mothering = unsightly behavior on my part). But when my sweet girl will ask “Remember the time you forgot me?” I look at her like she is wooden girl, I’ve carved to love whose nose is growing. I used to think she made this stuff up until I realized she didn’t. Just dust.
I have noticed that sometimes the good memories have escaped as well and I wonder if by not holding them tight enough am I missing life lessons, or some critical data point? Should I be working to chisel these good memories into stone? I suppose that Facebook is the modern equivalent. Instead of a chisel, a check-in and photo share seals the deal.
Facebook memories aside, memory happens automatically. It is like breathing or walking. We don’t teach our young to remember. And so in this way memory is completely personal. Have you ever shared a moment with someone but had a different memory of the experience? This of course happens all the time and illustrates perception defining reality vs. reality defining perception. Noodle on that.
So friends, is memory a friend or a foe? Healthy like green juice or a sneaky killer like a Saki bomb? We create talisman to attempt to keep memories: photos, art, souvenirs, stories, movies, Instagram and Facebook. We take effort to capture our best memories and display them to remind us of golden moments. We also recant the bad as a warning or lesson for ourselves and others.
Neuroscience and history tell us that memory lead to survival of our species. “Don’t go out of the cave after dark, you heard what happen to Og right?” So memory can’t be bad. It teaches us lessons, evokes emotion, connects us as human beings, a really is the basis for evolution. “Don’t drink 3 Saki bombs, you remember what happened last time.”
I love a Buddhist saying: "The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly."- Buddha
What resonates with me in Buddha’s wisdom is the key word mourning for the past…in a way he is saying forget the bad stuff right? Don’t fret that perhaps you’ve caused mental anguish on your precious 5 year old leaving her at school with nowhere to go. Don’t cry over spilled pudding. Stay here, right here in the present moment and love it!
So maybe my selective memory loss is really a gift. Like a booster seat to reach the big kid table of enlightenment, a ten inch advantage toward reaching my ability to let go and be the in present.
If it is good enough for Buddha is should be ok for me! Dust it!
How is your memory? Do you often look back? And if so do you find certain memories more vivid than others? Anyone else practicing selective memory?