What Did That Sign Say?

wrong turn sign
(Wrong Turn OK) Image by jurvetson

The signs are everywhere….if you look, and remember to follow through.

Encarta defines memory as: the ability … to retain learned information and knowledge of past events and experiences and to retrieve that information and knowledge. Granted, I’m middle aged (which means that most of my family and friends are as well), but memory issues seem almost like an epidemic. This has me wondering about the various layers of memory.

I understand that aging (especially after menopause) brings challenges regarding memory. And, there are probably aspects that are beneficial. For example, realizing that I am more forgetful can encourage me to be more present and aware of consciously tending to something – since I probably won’t remember later. But, these are the lighter layers of memory. What about significant events and experiences in our lives?

There is a saying by Thomas Szasz: The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naïve forgive and forget; the wise forgive, but do not forget. As I continue to heal and forgive, I have held onto that guidance. But, I’m wondering: How do we truly let go, move on, and remember with loving kindness?

There are some that would argue that being naïve is more beneficial because the only way to truly let go is to no longer have any imprint or memory of whatever we are forgiving. However, if we rely on forgetting as a barometer for forgiveness, then we also put ourselves at risk for denial, avoidance, and a lack of acceptance for reality.  Being naïve involves an immaturity and lack of awareness which does not necessarily translate into forgetting. Is it really naïve to forget or simply selective memory?

Memories are sign posts to our psyches, souls, and spirits. As many – including myself – have said before, forgiveness is about acceptance. How can we accept that which we do not remember? There is plenty of psychological evidence that speaks to the power of blocked memories. In other words, just because we do not remember something does not mean that the experience is not affecting us.

Here’s the thing: Our subconscious is powerful. The more that we keep stashed away in the closet of our psyches, the greater power we give to unconscious decisions and patterns. As someone who is supportive of being present, mindful, and aware, my goal is to live consciously. Growth and healing are centered in facing, observing, and accepting whatever we feel, think, see, sense, and experience. In other words, waking up comes from expanding awareness not limiting it.

Memories can be like emotions. We can’t suppress some while supporting others. There may be aspects to memory that I can’t control, but I can continue to open as widely and fully as possible to my own being.

We are who we are because of our life experience. When someone suggests that being naïve is beneficial to forgiveness, it is like asking me to invalidate and discount my life experience. Life is short enough; I’m not looking to shorten it even more by choosing to forget what happens. Without forgiveness, there is no acceptance, love, light, or kindness. If we forget, then we are letting go of forgiveness too since one cannot survive without the other. If I do forget, then I apologize for having forgotten that which creates who I am and who we all are.

So, I will continue to acknowledge that peace and forgiveness rest in acceptance. I will continue to try to forgive and not forget in an effort to support loving kindness for all. I am grateful for my memories. It doesn’t matter if they are pleasant or uncomfortable; I will try to honor the signs and remember to open to where they take me.

What was this blog about….. oh yeah, memory. Now, if I can just remember to post this.


© Sallie Odenthal 2012

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