“Reset your memories every ten years.” Alexandra Fuller in “Leaving Before the Rains Come.”
What a great idea! What that process might mean and how to accomplish it have been whirring around in my mind since reading it. I want to share my thoughts, but they are random, not in essay form, so bear with me.
The first time I sub in a math class at the high school I say, “I deleted those files long ago. Look around the class and see who might be able to help you.” So I already have an idea of my brain with its files. And now I am wondering how to deliberately put unpleasant memories in a file and delete them. It would probably be more effective to immediately delete that memory, but if it is still hanging around , hit the delete button.
I am proud of the fact that I have what everyone calls a great memory, and there are huge chunks of it that I love to revisit, so I’ll continue to choose “save” for those chunks. But is it really valuable to drag around a memory of a time when I was disappointed or hurt or embarrassed or saddened? Delete.
A related quote: “Keep the lesson but lose the baggage.”
Then there is a quote (from “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” by Hannah Green) I have mentioned several times: “Many of the things we remember best never happened.” The main character in the book is tortured by a memory of trying to throw her baby sister out the window. The therapist, over time, points out to her that a.) she was too young and too small to reach into the crib and lift her sister over the side , and b.) the window in the apartment was above her reach.
Maybe you are familiar with a story attributed to Mark Twain that a cat who has jumped on a hot stove will never jump on a hot stove again, but neither will it jump on any stove. So there are experiences from which we have over-learned and continue to generalize. Examine carefully, be aware, and delete.
When cleaning out my brain files I’d like to delete the complete list of helping verbs and the one of prepositions that I was forced to learn in seventh grade. Maybe that would make room so I could recall the name of someone I met last week.
© Dorothy C. Judd
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