I had a dream last night...Dennis Dollarhide and I were playing kick ball at school. His arm was in a cast and a sling. He was wearing a short-sleeve, button down checkered shirt. We were on the field in between Horace Mann and Woodrow Wilson, on the Mann side, so I think we were in the third grade. After school we went to his house. I think it was on Blackthorne, right off of South St. We were playing in his front yard, hoping the pretty little dark haired girl who lived a few doors down (you know who you are) would come out and see us.
Memory is a strange thing. Did you ever catch yourself thinking about something from your past, and have absolutely no idea where the memory came from? Sometimes, if you're very lucky, you can trace back one tangent memory after another until you get to what triggered the chain. Most of the time, however, we can't. Memories seem to pop up randomly...but they are never really random. Something always triggers them. A sound. A smell. An image. Sometimes all it takes is the quality of light streaming through a window...or a particular shade of color. Amazing, really.
If you read my last blog, you know I spoke of the snapshots we leave with others, and how we should be careful of what memories we leave with people. There is of course, and inverse to that: the memories that others leave with us...more importantly, how we handle those memories...what we do with them, and what impact we allow them to have on our lives.
Man will never create a computer that can come close to matching the human mind. The complexities of our thought processes, especially when it comes to memory, is beyond our comprehension. Our minds are like photo albums, storing every single image, sound, taste, smell, and emotion that we have ever experienced. Some of them are good. Some are not. Today, we're talking about the bad ones...and what we choose to do with them.
Some bad memories are actually useful. It's good to remember that a hot stove burned you. That way, you are careful around stoves. It is not good, however, to hate all stoves because you got burned by one. It is not good to hunt down stoves and shoot them. It's not good to try and teach all people that stoves are inherently evil because you got burned by one. It is not good to refuse to live in a house that has a stove, and try and convince others to get rid of theirs. It is certainly not good to allow being burned by a stove once to dominate your thoughts, hopes and dreams for the rest of your life...to allow that memory to make not only you miserable, but also all of those around you...especially the ones you love the most.
You've noticed, I'm sure, the picture of Marley's Ghost at the top of this post. In Dickens' classic tale, the chains Marley carried with him were his misdeeds that he performed in life. While I agree that we carry our misdeeds that way, I believe that we do something far more insidious; more harmful not only to ourselves, but to those we care the most about:
Our memories...or, the ones we choose to focus on.
I'm not meaning to harp about my heart attack from two months ago. It was, however, a seminal event for me...and one that I hope can be of help to others. I learned, while re-examining my life, that it wasn't just the snapshots I had left with others that had had a negative effect on people...it was the snapshots in my own memory that I had chosen to focus on. You see, the snapshots that I chose to focus on had a great influence on the ones that I left with others. It's a truly vicious circle.
I was Marley's Ghost twice over...chains not just from my misdeeds, but from the focus of my memories. And, I allowed those chains to drag the ones I love into the depths of despair.
One of the biggest differences between God and Man is that God can truly forget when he forgives. It says in His word that He can put things as far away from Himself as North is from South, High is from Low...you get the idea. We can't do that. Once a memory is stuck in our heads, it's pretty much there forever. But, if you liken our memories to a photo album, we still have options. We have the ability to choose what pages we go to, at least most of the time. However...even when something triggers a bad memory and drags us there against our will, we have the ability to choose how long we stay on that page...and how much impact we allow that image to have on us...and those around us.
I'm not accusing any of you of being as bad as I was and am. God forbid. But...even if you have made the mistake of allowing the negative snapshots in your personal photo album to influence you even one one millionth as much as I have...it is far too much.
I am in the process of shedding my chains. I realize that it will be a life-long struggle. You see, the worst part of it is this: I like to hold on to them. There is, for some perverse reason, a comfort I find in blaming others...even though I know that it is wrong. I have always been the captain of my own ship. Whatever storms I have sailed through have been of my own doing. That is not true for everyone. Many people are truly victims of circumstance...whether that means a tragic accident...or an encounter with a monster. I cannot imagine the difficulty for them in trying to let go...but that is an excuse that I do not have.
Choose which pages of your album of memories you go to. Choose, when you are taken to a page against your will, how long you stay there. Choose what impact you allow it to have on your life, and the lives of those around you.
Don't be like me. Don't be Marley's Ghost. What few chains you may still have, let go.
The checks on Dennis' shirt were blue and green...at least in the dream. The grass was feshly mowed and wet. The scent of it hung in the still air. The sun was high in the cloudless sky...and we both could run like the wind...and one day, we will again. Be safe overseas, my friend. You are missed. And loved.