We forget things.
I was sitting outside, listening to the interminable November rainfall and smash onto the rocks below the deck, when I thought that maybe I was a fraud.
I thought that maybe I should be better. I thought that maybe I wasn’t ever sick. That maybe I imagined it. I thought that maybe I was always fine. I thought that maybe I should apologize to the people in my life for all the drama.
Then I stopped overthinking. I recognized I was doing it again – minimizing the past. I was that sick and it was that bad. It’s still bad, some days.
Where does the distancing come from, I wonder, and is it so bad to let go? I cling to the past at times; I let it define me far too often.
I’m not the only one who minimizes things. We’re not nearly as unique as we sometimes wish we were. We have much in common with a great many.
But why do we forget?
Why can’t we always hold the reality of our memories in front of us always?
Perhaps because to do so would diminish our ability to thrive?
How can I heal if the wounds are as fresh as they were when they were inflicted? What would life be like if I woke up to grief every day? What would I ever accomplish? I’d be a paralyzed wreck, incapable of even the most basic functioning and I’m not alone. If trauma stayed fresh, anyone who was ever a victim would be incapable of moving on to anything else. We’d relive it until we went mad.
What do I gain from keeping it fresh? Not peace, that’s for sure.
It’s problematic when I minimize my history when I criticize myself for my reactions. It’s not problematic that memories become more distant with time. The soft-focus helps us live with the unbearable.
When I’m not busy minimizing, I tend to obsess. Thoughts get in and they bang about. They smash around my brainpan and bring hard-to-deal-with emotions along for the ride. The thoughts often relate to issues that are very old. They’re not exclusively about things I experienced. I also obsess over mistakes I’ve made, times when I acted badly, and moments when I caused another pain.
What would it be like if those memories were fresh every morning? Does anything good come from inflicting ourselves with more pain?
We need the distance. We need to be able to step back from our emotions in order to deal. Am I really a horrible person because I reacted badly to a note from a crush in grade four? Do I really need to continue beating myself up over something I said thirty years ago? Of course not.
This is the upside of softened memories. We can let go of the times we weren’t perfect, when we made mistakes, when we inadvertently caused harm. We don’t have to stay there. We don’t have to stay with the done to us or the done to others. That doesn’t mean I need to minimize what happened. It does mean that I can accept with relief the distance that comes from not feeling all the feels every time I look back.