Scientists have proven that the human brain starts remembering in the womb. Really? That’s weird, because as hard as I try, my first memory comes when I was about four. I figure that’s okay since I probably didn’t learn anything I could use in a world where I wasn’t floating naked in fluid.
When we ring in a new year, many of us are more than eager to forget some or much of what happened to us in the prior year. Things like regret, loss, debt, guilt and grudges. Then there are the things we’d like to forget but can’t seem to get out of our heads; like the fiscal cliff, massive hurricanes, Penn State, and try as I might to ignore them, Kim Kardashian and Honey Boo Boo.
Still, it’s a fact that if we didn’t have our memories, we wouldn’t be left with much. Do our memories make it easier or more difficult for us to move on in our lives and achieve happiness?
I believe memory to be a built-in GPS; a tally of lessons and a reminder of what we did right, what we did wrong and what we should never had done in the first place.
I’ve also found it to be very kind. My memories of an unhealthy marriage are overcome with the moments of laughter, wonder and newness. It is only when I truly think about those years that I remember them for what they were; unhappy. When my mind wanders to the sadness that life has dealt me, my memory graciously spares me a clear recollection. For both ends of the spectrum, I am grateful.
If our memory is indeed a life guide, then why don’t we do better as we get older? Isn’t that where the phrase “Old enough to know better” comes from? And yet many of us don’t, know better, that is.
I don’t think the fault lies in the memory itself, but rather with our inability or unwillingness to let go of the emotion that accompanies it. Heartaches, love lost, un-kept promises, unvalued friendships, jobs we could have done better, and love we should have given more of, are just small samples of life’s would haves, could haves, and should haves.
If we can remember the memory without feeling the pain maybe we could move forward wiser, swifter and better. Easier said than done. But I would wager big money that every truly happy person you meet has been able to harness that level of learning from a memory; cherishing it without feeling its pain, anger or regret.
I’ve heard people say that they will never own a pet after having suffered the loss of one they cherished. The memory proves too painful. The cost of that decision is to never again have a pet that offers you warm companionship and unconditional love all the years of it’s life. I understand it, but I would never be willing to pay that price. Life and love is for the spending of it, the suffering through it and the emerging from it vanquished.
In my 59 years of life, I’ve learned that having a memory is perhaps the greatest thing my mind can give me. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things I’d rather forget but way more things that I long to remember; the smell of my newborn baby as she was placed in my arms, my mother’s smile, Christmas morning, our new puppy, and the loving arms of the man of my dreams. When push comes to shove, if I have to remember the death of my father so that I may remember his laugh, then it is a price I willingly pay.
I have only recently discovered that my recollections, both good and bad, actually guide me in the direction I should be going. They also keep me safe in that place where I belong. That comforts me.
Despite the fact that our brains are so soft that they can be cut by a butter knife, they harness our most precious and valuable commodity, a life lived. They give us an instant replay of every tear, laugh, achievement, failure and of course our dreams and hopes for our future. Our memory is all we have to catalog our life.
Our only job is to simply live it.
Joan Cooper - You always make the day more pleasant, Tammy.
They say also that in the end – all we have are memories.
I have always said, we need to stop teaching myths and deal with reality – well – I am now reaching a point in advanced age, to realize that the myths are to soften the blows of reality.
Treat the memories with lightheartedness and acceptance that we have really lived.
Mel Glenn - A lovely ode to memory. (Of course, I just forgot what I said.) Seriously, a nice column that shows the importance of memory, good and bad. You would think it would help us avoid mistakes we’ve made; perhaps, but won’t we just make new ones?
I find I tend to romanticize the past, coating my memories with a rose-colored gloss.
Jeffrey Davidson - Well, as always, you have a warm and lighthearted way of presenting different topics. True to form, you presented this one in a similar manner. What I like best was… Wait a minute; I forgot what I was writing about! How soon we forget.
I do remember that remembering can be difficult but often times it reminds us of how much we loved and that is beautiful. We remember the pain so that perhaps we can avoid it in the future and that too is good.
I remember when I met you and knew that I would share some good memories with you.
So, please don’t forget all of those wonderful memories that shaped the person you are today. Then, from a selfish point of view, I’ll be able to continue reading more of whatever it is that you write about.
I just wish I could remember!
Tammy - Hi Mel, I too tend to remember the past through rose colored glasses. It’s often a blessing. Mistakes are how we learn success. Success in love, business, relationships. I’m a big fan of mistakes and remembering what they taught me. Not so much for the pain they caused. Separating the two is not easy but well worth the effort. Thanks so much for your post! It’s awesome having you here.
Tammy - Hi Joan, Thanks so much for that very lovely compliment! I like your take on this subject. These days I do indeed treat my memories with a bit of reverence and humor, not to mention … a grain of salt. Thanks for the read, Joan, and the post! You also make my day more pleasant!
Tammy - Hi Jeff, We are nothing without our collected memories of our life lived. You are right there. I actually think that our memory of a given event of twenty years past has somehow shaped how we view ourselves today. Weird, but in a good way. Being open is the key. Being brave enough to do something again even though it hurt the first time is the wonder. So appreciate the read and so happy to have you here!
Maureen - So well written! I love the feelings and pictures your words paint. And it brought up a memory of something my mom always used to say – “If wishes were horses then beggars would ride; if turnips were watches I’d wear one by my side.” Always makes me smile.
Tammy - Hi Maureen, what a very sweet sentiment. Makes me smile with you. Thanks for sharing that, and thanks ever so for being here!
Gary Jordan - Tammy,
Although I have always enjoyed reading your post, I think this is one of your best. Very thought provoking. Good work!
Rick - Emerge from it “vanquished”? As in utterly destroyed?
Tammy - Hi Rick, no, as in “Vanquished – to overcome or subdue an emotion or feeling.” Funny how that word can be used in a different context. To be subdued and overcome by life and love is not a bad thing to have happen. I know lots of peeps that don’t even appear affected by life one way or the other. I’d much rather feel life hit me in the face (ouch!). I’m not above appreciating being sometimes thrown to the ground by life’s ups and downs. It’s in the getting back up that I prove myself worthy of the experience. I’m not saying I’ve always enjoyed the encounter, but it sure does make for a hell of a ride! Thanks for popping in!
Tammy - Hi Gary, so happy you thought so. Nice to know you are still on the other end of my weekly rants. Have not heard from you in a dog’s age. I always love it when my readers speak up. Thanks for that!!
cheryl - Wow———–this is a good one———-makes me think!!!!!!!!!
Tammy - Hi Cheryl, glad you enjoyed. Making you think is the point. Awesome! Thanks for stopping in and saying hello, so very happy to have you here!