When I was a very small child, I was abused by a family member. Thankfully, no one in my own home, but a family member nonetheless–someone who should have been responsible enough to care and protect the heart, mind, soul and body of a child.
For many years afterward I blocked this, and every, intense memory from my mind–both the good and the bad. I lived “in the moment” without trying to hold on to the memories being formed inside my head as I lived my life. For years, I had only a few lingering memories of life as a child or teenager. Some people thought I was callous and self-centered because I remembered so little of what was going on around me, often forgetting people and places who shared special moments with me–but I was merely in self-preservation mode.
The beauty of our brains is that those memories we can’t deal with, or don’t want to deal with, are still being stored, we simply can’t or won’t access them. For me these memories became a whirling, swirling kaleidoscope of colors, sounds, places and people that never connected to anything concrete or tangible. While living in the moment isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I believe that not treasuring and valuing our memories can be.
After the force of emotions that I have been through the few past years–losing my dad; dealing with cancer; building new friendships; struggling with post-cancer issues; pets dying; children graduating; mother finding rest at the end of her cancer journey–memories both good and bad, but with an intensity almost unbearable–I find myself blocking memories once again. I find myself once again “living in the moment” without the ability to rewind a rerun memory at a future date. If I am asked at the end of the day what happened during that day, I honestly can’t tell you. I lived it and then moved on without thought or reflection to the point that nothing seemed to stick.
It’s not that I want to forget everything; it’s simply that I find my emotions too draining–all emotions. Memories produce emotions, and it’s all simply too stressful. At least, that’s what I thought.
I’ve been visiting the chiropractor regularly for the past several weeks because of the chronic daily migraines I have suffered this past year. At our last appointment, we were discussing the tight knots that keep building in my neck and shoulders–despite his constant attentions to these areas of my spine. I asked him if there was a way to break the cycle of pain and tension in these areas, and he said only if I could find a way to not have stress in my life. Funny, I thought that by not stopping to analyze what happens each day–by not remembering the happenings in my life–I was releasing the stress of my life…wrong!
Another by-product of my current mode of not remembering is my lack of ability to write. When you don’t focus on the life around you, when you refuse to truly observe the life you are living and what goes on around you, you have nothing to write about. A writer needs introspection–at least a little bit–in order to pull thoughts out of the mind and onto the paper. You can’t paint a word picture without thoughts, memories, or emotions. For me, a by-product of not writing is stress. When writing is soothing and cathartic and you’re no longer writing, there is no emotional release–at least not for me.
My youngest son is about to begin his second year of high school; my third son is soon to be heading off for his first year away at college; and I have just been offered the chance to take a trip of a lifetime–a trip to Kenya to experience, for just a short while, the life and culture of the people in a different part of the world than I have known. These are moments to be treasured, savored, thoroughly enjoyed and stored for the plethora of exciting tidbits they will add to my family’s life in the future, for the things that can be learned about the world, and of life in general, through those memories. I do not want to squander them in the hustle and bustle of the “live-and-let-go” attitude I’ve been experiencing lately.
I have suffered migraines for most of my life, but amazingly enough, I never had one during the six months of chemotherapy. Each day was a treasure of life bursting forth, new each morning. Even the horrible, “I can’t move for lack of energy” days were an opportunity to take just a few more breaths…to see one more sunrise…to experience one more smile on a loved one’s face…to live one more day. I savored the good moments, agonized through the bad, and painted massive word pictures every week in my blog–and suffered not a single moment of migraine pain.
Maybe migraines are my body’s way of reminding me to think about what life has to offer me. Maybe when I store too many memories away in the back burner of my mind–without stopping to evaluate or savor them–the brain begins to boil over. Maybe while I am “living in the moment” I need to be more fully alive in the moment, savoring each nuance of the memory filling my head, and let it FILL my head, instead of just trying to “make it through the day” without anything “stressing” me out.
God didn’t give us life on this incredible planet–with all the incredible people we know, experiencing all the incredible things we can see and do–for us to just flit through on auto-pilot. Our lives are to be filled with the rich nuances of color and texture and depth that surrounds us, savored and shared and enjoyed.
My prayer today is that I can, we all can, learn to live each day fully, experiencing and building memories along the way. Letting go of the agony, but understanding that it, like joy, is a part of life–a giant kaleidoscope of memories to be experienced, learned from, savored and shared. Let us not run from the pain or hide from the memories that make us sad; let us choose to dwell on the joyful ones and learn and grow from the painful ones.
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all…” –Phil.1.3-4
“So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a monument.” –Gen.31.45
“Please inquire of the past generations, and consider the things searched out by their fathers.” –Job8.8
“But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” –Luke2.19
“Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.” –Exodus12.14
Yes, my friend, memories–all of our memories–are important. Never get so caught up in remembering that you cannot savor the present joys and moments, but never forget that your memories–your past experiences, both good and bad–make you who you are, and help to make those that come after you who they will be, as well.