It’s a New Year and a new decade – time for us all to crack open the shell of our lives and determine what we want them to look like by the end of the year and into the future.
As I think about this coming year, I keep thinking how amazing it would be if we could all truly have a fresh start – to not have the baggage we have gathered over the years follow us in some way or another.
Over the course of the holiday season, I, perhaps like you, watched several movies and such and came across a story that offered just such an opportunity to a pair of twins. The story, Tell Me Who I Am, tells depicts a twin with a brain injury and how his brother deal with reintroducing the injured brother to the story of their past together. For this particular person, this appeared to be a gift from God as the injured brother had been struggling with mental illness resulting from past abuse so the healthy brother took the opportunity to recreate a completely different past for the two of them; one that including loving, supportive parents and a happy childhood.
This situation presented an opportunity to, at least on the face of it, free both of men from memories neither were able to address previously. The injured man walks blissfully into his new life with no understanding of the devils that lurked around the corner before his accident and for the healthy brother, this felt like the greatest blessing he could offer to his sibling. It also offered the healthy brother the opportunity to pretend he also had that more idealistic life and shut all of the other garbage down deep into his memory bank hopefully to never be dealt with again. Sounds great, right?
Looking in from the outside, it sure seems like it would be ideal to awaken one day with a clean slate, able to look at all of the options in front of me, find what it is that makes my heart sing and be able to follow path that without understanding that perhaps I had followed that particular road earlier in my life but I had become discouraged or perhaps more likely, failed miserably.
The reality is that amnesia or no amnesia, the past cannot simply disappear just because we want it to. There are repercussions – positive and negative – that we are destined to experience due to the choices we have previously made. The things I have done or that others had done to me or around me will affect my future relationships whether or not I remember what actually occurred and I would much rather have all of the necessary information to help me make the best decisions possible rather than go blissfully into a lion’s den without the knowledge that I was going to be eaten alive.
Additionally as much as the “fresh slate” appeals to me, the thought of having to relearn difficult lessons is not appealing at all! Who really wants to go through puberty again or have to relearn that a person you trusted fully was actually the root of all of your problems?
At least from my perspective, memories – both good and bad – are a gift from God. The information they provide keeps us safe, helps us grow and learn from our experiences, and allows us to relive beautiful moments in our lives. Our job as people of faith – and more broadly, as sentient adults – is to use the knowledge we gain from our experiences to make decisions about people, events, and challenges and as a result, become more merciful, loving and understanding of others.
Unfortunately as I look around at my community and the actions of others, it seems that more and more people are choosing to use their memories to encourage bitterness, anger and retribution instead of more positive options. It seems that we as a society would rather mask our memories with drugs and alcohol or use our memories as weapons against others.
Now look, I get it. It is certainly seems more fulfilling if we can continually point at others actions against us as the reason we aren’t able to do what we should be doing or to choose to forget certain lessons because the knowledge that we gained gets in the way of what we want to do in the moment or alters the image we are trying to create. I would be lying if I said that there aren’t circumstances where conveniently “forgetting” wouldn’t be oh-so-much more appealing than owning up to past failures or embarrassments. But the thing is, neither choosing to forget nor choosing to be bitter and angry about our past does nothing but harm us individually.
As the twins in the movie learned, changing our stories only shuts us off from honest relationship with one another. We either exhaust ourselves emotionally by spending more of our time and energy trying to remember the new, fictitious past, or we are so consumed with self-righteous anger, wallowing in our own pit of despair, that we push others away who wish only to help or heal us. We become isolated, lonely, despondent and unable to resolve the conflict.
As hard as it may be to accept, ignorance, regardless of how appealing it may seem, is not bliss. Even in situations where we may have all the right in the world to be angry and vengeful, our job as people of faith is to look beyond how one’s actions made us feel personally and see how we may have either contributed to the situation or find the lessons in the event and carry those forward. I know it may seem impossible. For those, like the men in the movie, that are victims or horrific abuse and violence, this very thought of not seeking retribution; of moving past the injury seems absolutely asinine…
…and yet, it is what we are called to do.
It is not my place to choose the punishment for others. What is my job is looking at the whole of a situation, finding the ways that I may be responsible for given situations, and then choosing forgiveness, mercy and grace. Choosing to drink myself into oblivion or use drugs to alter what I see as reality doesn’t change the truth and bliss is only found in truth.
Here is my wish for all of us for this New Year.
May we all be willing to seek bliss by changing the lense through which we see our past, find new understanding and acceptance of ourselves and others, and carry the light that is within us to everyone we encounter. Yes, I know none of this is easy, but then, as my dad would have said, nothing worth having comes easy.
Blessings to you all.
Happy New Year!