“I want the memories of my life to weigh me down”
Last week I had the privilege to attend a luncheon with Sandra Cisneros. It was remarkable for many reasons but one of the one of most intriguing revelations came with a prompt she offered the small group: make a list of ten things you want to forget but you can’t. I instantly thought this was a great prompt and made a note of it so that I could try it when I got home and possibly use it in a future workshop or class. After all, with my bundle of regrets, embarrassments, and shame, such a list could practically write itself, right?
The trouble is, when I got home and put pen to paper, I couldn’t think of a single memory I wanted to forget. My memory is not as good as it used to be. It could be that I may have already forgotten or blocked out some really painful events. But as I went through the list of hardships which have affected my little world, heartbreaks, mistakes, regrets, disasters, tragedies, there wasn’t one that I truly wanted to be completely forgotten.
I thought about the people I lost, my grandmother in her hospital bed, my grandfather’s funeral, the unexpected and heartbreaking deaths of friends taken far too soon. I thought about natural disasters which have taken not only my loved ones, but have caused so much pain to so many. These are painful memories, but they are also important memories. Maybe I will forget them in time, but for now, they remain with me for a reason. I don’t want to forget them because doing so would mean I was blinding my eyes and forgetting those people. Maybe it would lessen the pain of loss, but I need those memories and if they come with weepy eyes, so be it.
I thought of the man made horrors of this world, the starvation, the hate, the racism. I thought of mass shootings and children dying at the hands of children. There are so many in this world who suffer every day. It may seem like an obvious wish to be able to forget all the hate in the world, but I never would. I need this knowledge. How can I help make the world a better place if I do not acknowledge the wrong that is out there?
I thought of embarrassing moments, times I was open or vulnerable only to be hurt. Times I acted the fool because of love or infatuation or alcohol. Plenty of things I wish I had never said. Some late night phone calls and text messages which I wish had gone unsent. Moments of selfishness and jealousy. Times I blindly followed the crowd instead of standing up for myself and my beliefs. That one night at Karaoke. (Okay there may have been more than one night at Karaoke.) There is pain I caused. People I have hurt. I have made loved one’s cry. I have been cruel. Those memories give me no pleasure and fill me with remorse. To this day, I still think of what I should have done in certain situations. How I could have been different, been better. I beat myself up over it.
I try not to dwell on those regrets but at the same time I don’t want to lose the memory of them. I’ve learned from them. I hope to have more grace because of them.
Maybe I would be happier if I cut out some of the more difficult parts of my life. I’ve suffered my share of life’s bullshit and I have plenty of regrets weaved into my memories. I have a good share of baggage and anxieties due to my life experiences. But those feelings, however foolish or painful, have provided me with the tools I use to get through each day.
My memories hold lesson and, as I try so desperately to be a better person, I need to remember those lessons.
I will always hold regrets. My mind will continue to wish I had said or done something different. I wish I had one last conversation with my grandfather before he passed and that I hadn’t pursued a hopeless relationship. I regret I wasted my time and energy on certain people. I regret I didn’t spend time and energy on certain people. And plenty more. But I did those things. I did all those the things, the good and the bad, and those things have added up to make me the person I am.
I don’t like myself much on most days. I wish I was prettier, smarter, thinner, wittier. I wish I could do more. I wish I was less reclusive and more driven. I wish I could save the world. But overall this is my lot in life and I am grateful for it. It may come with some baggage and I may still be a work in progress, but I have worked hard and I got it pretty good right now.
Those memories, the good, the bad, the ugly, they are all pieces of my puzzle. I need them to finish my portrait.