“I don't remember anybody's name. How do you think the 'dahling' thing got started?” ~Zsa Zsa Gabor
For years I've mourned over having a faulty memory. Unless I write something down in detail, like on a calendar for short-term storage or in a journal for long-term, it seems almost certain that I will lose it, or enough of it to miss out on useful and enjoyable retrieval. I know many people complain they can't remember names, or numbers, or whatever, and certainly we all get fuzzy as time goes on, but I'm talking about a serious problem here. Rob will reminisce about something that we've done or encounters we've had with others, and I'll have to scratch my head till he manages to jump-start my brain with a juicy charge of details. It's not that I'm inattentive to life. I've been told that this kind of bad wiring is related to stress. That's all fine and good, but really, how do I get rid of stress? Yoga, okay, sure. Deep breathing, sure. Simplifying life, sure, sure, sure. Aren't we all wrestling with de-stressing? Isn't that just one of the jobs of life? It's not like there's an on/off switch I can conveniently flip. Right?
“Do not trust your memory; it is a net full of holes; the most beautiful prizes slip through it.” ~Georges Duhamel
So it really bugs me. I notice that I have affixed a label to myself with waterproof epoxy: HAS A BAD MEMORY. It strikes me that this is not helping my situation. But, to chant that I have a GOOD memory in the hope that I can TRICK my brain into doing its job seems, well, a little New Age schmaltzy. No offense to those who have mastered the power of positive affirmation. It's great if you can get it to work. It's just that I'd have to start out with something I actually believe before I could put my heart into it.
“A lot of people mistake a short memory for a clear conscience.” ~Doug Larson
But wait. Maybe there's hope. Recently during church I had a small epiphany: I almost never need to use a hymnbook anymore when it's time to sing. What's this? I actually remember something? And not just the words, but also the soprano and usually the alto parts? I can't tell you what a pleasant shock it was to realize that my memory was doing its job, and doing it well. It was this pretty glimmer of shiny hope that said perhaps I'm not going to be a mental vegetable in a few years.
“Most of our oldest memories are the product of repeated rehearsal and reconstruction.” ~Ulric Neisser
And then this morning I had a second memory-related epiphany, a thought I'd never before entertained, a brand-new idea to me. The concept of having a good memory, besides the familiar ability to easily call up and savor the past, could perhaps also include the abililty to intentionally lay aside events that need to fade—more specifically, to determinedly forgive grievances and lay aside fears. How's that for another definition of memory—a mindful, liberating forgetfulness?
“Let us not burden our remembrances with a heaviness that's gone." ~William Shakespeare
Since I'm already practiced at (ahem) recall-failure, this other more delicious kind of forgetting seems an obvious place for me to begin improving my memory. I love the irony of that: disremembering = efficient memory. What can I let go? I feel ready to cut so much loose. The thought of more open space in my head is exciting. I'm not unacquainted with forgiveness as a deliberate choice—I've tried to forgive over the years, though I'm sure not as often or as deeply as I could have. I'm even less rehearsed at putting away my personal fears, but again, I have had at least a little experience there too. Anyway, I'm good at encouraging others. (Isn't that the way it always is?)
“(History is) not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.” ~John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton
So. Maybe I should consider changing my label soon to: HAS A GOOD MEMORY. Where's the superglue? Maybe I ought to also take up chanting positive affirmations, now that I have some thoughts on the subject I can really get behind.
“Memory is a magnet. It will pull to it and hold only material nature has designed it to attract.” ~Jessamyn West
A Few Ways to (Hopefully) Improve Memory
•Take good notes on life.
•Chant: There are two sides to remembrance, the holding onto the good and the letting go of the bad.
•Clean out mental closets—get rid of old hurts and doubts.
•Banish personal demons.
•Meditate and breathe deeply in these new, fresh, open spaces of the mind.
“A retentive memory may be a good thing, but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness.” ~Elbert Hubbard