I hate it when I forget where I have put something, what time I’m supposed to be somewhere, the name of a person I’ve known for years or the punch line to a funny story. But, I have come to realize that there are some times when a bad memory is a good thing.
There has been a woman in the news recently who has a perfect memory — she can remember everything that has ever happened to her, exactly — and she can remember every word that has ever been said to her. It sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it?
In the writing class I just completed, Dr. H told us about just such a person he once interviewed for a magazine article. He said he asked the woman (maybe the same woman who I recently read about?), “Is it great to never have to study for a test and always know where everything is?” She said, yes, those things were nice, but that actually the perfect memory had been a negative in her life. Of course, Dr. H asked why. She explained that she remembered every unkind thing that had ever been said or done to her in perfect detail — so, it made relationships very hard. For instance, if she saw a person on the street from her long-ago 4th grade class, she would immediately remember the time that person called her a name on the playground! So, while the other person was just glad to see someone they recognized from a long time ago and would have loved to chat about the old days, she was immediately having to fight off the urge to call the person a name — in retaliation for that hurt from years before!
So, maybe having a perfect memory isn’t such a great thing, but how about just a pretty good one — that should be terrific, don’t you think? Well, as much as I loved Mama, Mama had a pretttty darn good memory, and tended to hold a grudge. When I was in high school and would get mad at one of my friends, I learned quickly to be careful not to let Mama know, because she would sometimes hold a little grudge against that friend, long after I had made up with them (and, of course, she was only hearing her “baby’s” side of the story, so I was always in the right!). It was just simpler not to let her know.
Mama had lots of great memories that were fun to hear her retell, but she also remembered slights and unkind acts for years, and would sometimes bring them up in conversation, so that not only she but those of us in her family too could never forget them! Let me just say, there are many things about Mama that I have tried to emulate in my life, but this isn’t one of them and, I’ve been aided in that effort by my really bad memory.
I can think of people who I used to dislike, but now I cannot for the life of me remember why! Thankfully, it is verrry hard to hold a grudge if you can’t remember the offense!
Recently, a friendship of mine that seemed to be broken beyond repair has regained new life! I am so thankful for that, and I know that the healing that we will have to go through will be aided by a bad memory. (To help that, I have deleted e-mails and thrown away letters that I might be tempted to revisit, that would do absolutely nothing to help repair the friendship — just open old wounds.)
Thank you God for my bad memory, and for those whom I have offended during my life who have (or have at least chosen to have) bad memories too!