Memories are Made of This

Back in the late 60s, early 70s in the pre-tech world there was a contraption known as the 8-track tape player. I never figured out how it worked but my Dad had one in his car and as I recall he had one tape, the Dean Martin tape. So, if Dad was giving you a lift somewhere you knew you were going to be serenaded by “Volare,” “Memories are Made of This,” and “That’s Amore.”

November tends to be a time when memories come floating back to us. Many faith communities have remembrance days where they remember all those who have gone before us. Mexico has a tradition of celebrating the Day of the Dead. In the United States, we celebrate Veteran’s Day in November honoring all the deceased who have served our country in the military.

The season of fall with its brilliant colors followed by its ever-baring branches reminds us of what has been. Memories unfold. We remember the dandelion bouquet our toddler gave us. We recall the celebration at our office on winning the grant. We cherish the surprised birthday party that we pulled off for our loved one and the months-in-planning family reunion.

Memories can lift us up, bring a smile to our face; recall a loved one no longer with us. Memories can cause negative feelings as well.

Memory can have power over us. A few years ago, I was teaching a relationship class. The last session of the class was a few weeks before Thanksgiving. I recall one of the attendees commenting that when she went home for Thanksgiving she would once again become the “10-year-old klutz who could do nothing right.” How sad, but real. We all have memories that we need to let go of. Playing those negative memory tapes over and over dissipates our spirit.

In her book, The Gift of Years*, Joan Chittister says, “There is an energy in memory that is deceiving. The assumption is that since a thing is past, it has no present meaning for us. But nothing could be further from the truth. Whatever is still in memory is exactly what has most meaning for us. It is the indicator of the unfinished in life. It gives sure sign of what still has emotional significance for us.”

How do we move forward and leave the painful memories behind; dismiss them of their power over us? Obviously, there is no one answer. Sometimes professional counseling is needed.

Other people find keeping a journal and writing the memory out helps. Some people will write out the painful memory and then tear it up or burn it. Physically letting the memory go. As an extrovert I think what has helped me over the years is talking it out, sometimes to myself, sometimes to another. I tend to be a “walk through it, talk through it” person. I am much more interested in what is in front of me than what is behind me.

How I describe the process of letting the painful memories go is “healed and sealed”.

I would never deny that the painful events had occurred. But the memories of those painful moments have been healed and sealed freeing me to go forward with hope and openness to the future. Time to eject the negative tape out of the 8-track and sing a new song!

* Joan Chittister, osb The Gift of Years. New York: Blue Bridge Publishing, 2008, p.154

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