One year ago (May 4), I wrote a post on my At The Gate blog speaking and listening with intention (blog post 24). I wrote that funny things happen when you commit words and thoughts to paper and send it out into the universe – some good, some constructive, some make me want to never pick up a pen (or keyboard) again.
But what about memories? The memories that, like some people, only add to the noise and are not necessarily worthy of our listening and response, but it is so hard not to when they come cascading back in our weak and lonely moments. As I am sure is the case with many of you out there, I am simply running out of things to fill up my time that can actually hold my attention…so the movie projector of past memories gets flipped on. Some people have the ability to only see the golden hue of the past – pleasant days gone by when everything was right with the world. The highlight reel. My brain is not wired that way. Like most people, my brain has the bad habit of filing the good days away in a lockbox and only dragging out every bad day where I did, said or thought some horrible thing, made a horrible mistake or was embarrassed or failed miserably at whatever task was at hand.
That day I could not have possibly known how drastically my life would change the very next evening. At 5 p.m. on May 5, I was in a car accident – hit by an inattentive and uninsured motorist while I was sitting at a red light minding my own business. It led to months of doctors and recovery from serious brain and neck injuries, not to mentions lawyers, insurance and dealing with lots of unpleasant things while suffering from a concussion that made me feel like I was wading through Jell-O. This week I have been thinking a lot about the past year, my unexpected year of recovery from injuries and how everything changed. I had a good deal of cognitive and memory damage from the car accident, and yet – the highlight reel of past blunders, failures and embarrassment somehow seemed to survive. How is that physically possible?
Remembering with intention is taking control of your thoughts instead of letting your memories control and overwhelm you. I have trained myself over the years to use some of these memories as positive reinforcements for bettering myself. Negative memories can have a positive impact on your future self.
But then there are times, like a teenage hauling out the cardboard box of trinkets and photos from the last ugly breakup, the mind just wants to go back and wallow in the failure. To throw a pity party and convince you that you are a failure and will never be good at anything. It’s just like the virus we’re all fighting right now. A virus is not a living thing – it needs a host to latch onto and take over so it can grow and thrive. The bad memory loop is a virus.
This state is not reserved for mere mortals either. Not just for those of us like Willy Loman in Death of A Salesman sees nothing but regret and failure staring him in the face. I have heard many interviews with celebrities, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, golden boys of the entrepreneurial world, and more who all confess to struggling with feelings of doubt, of inadequacy, of failures and wrong choices. Everyone, no matter how successful – maybe even because they are successful – have that reel in their head. Everyone is susceptible to the virus.
Instead of screaming, ignoring or giving in to the negative memory reel, there is an honorable, intentional way to disengage. To remember with intention. After all, those events are part of you and your life story. There is no way to know that the path not taken, the opportunities not granted would have made you better, happier or more successful.
As with speaking and listening with intention to other people, this is about having an intentional conversation with yourself. This is how you grow and become comfortable in your own skin. This is how you overcome things and decide to not give in to temptation and make a home where you have fallen down. It’s what makes you the hero of your own story and not a Greek tragedy.
It is okay to remember the bad times – it can be protective and keep you from repeating mistakes. It is okay to mourn the life that you did not get to lead. I think often about my “career” as a competitive figure skater and my goal of making it to the Olympics. My coach said he never saw anyone work hard than I did, or want it more. It was frustrating to him and me to see more talented skaters squander their natural ability. I would have killed to have my athletic ability match my passion and drive. But it was not to be.
It is a very natural human reaction to not want to deal with the uncomfortability of what’s going on, especially when it’s rolling non-stop through your head on a continuous loop and you only leave your house once a week. You start telling yourself, “I’m not going to deal with this. I’m just going to pretend it’s not going on.”
I have no solution for solving the problem of the bad memories from surfacing. I have no pearls of wisdom or “seven simple steps” to fix the problem. I’m right there in the trenches alongside everyone else. I have no easy answers for turning off the continuous loop. But what usually works to turn off the loop and return to the present time and place is gratitude and meditation. Gratitude that those days are in the past. Gratitude that so far I have survived 100% of my bad days. Gratitude for how far I have come in life even when it is very hard to see it. I try to meditate on that last point – to really examine where I was and where I am now. Even if it is not where I thought I would be right now, who I would be or what I would have. I try to take deep breaths and ask myself, “What is the best version of myself? What is it about this current situation that is making the failures and bad times surface? Why am I being tempted to only see the failures and disappointments in life?”
When we fully develop our idealized self, when we feel comfortable in our own skin and with the life we have led, then we can look backwards without regret. We can acknowledge the memories and then flip off the projector. We know where we are trying to get to – and we are okay with ending up somewhere else on life’s journey.
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Grace & Peace for another week to everyone on the journey of wellness.
~ Carrie Ann
This article is reprinted from the At The Gate blog – check out all my articles at www.toriisolutions.com/blog