Let go of toxic memories
English: Glass balcony at the skydeck of the Willis Tower in Chicago, Illinois (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are a lot of things we hold onto as we get older. Memories are certainly top among them. We cherish certain ones and tell those stories over and over. Grandchildren learn to tolerate them while their parents and grandparents take great delight in tales of yore. We may hold on to certain pictures and mementoes solely because of the happy memories they conjure up. A coffee cup from Nashville, coasters from the Black Hills, shot glasses from Texas, wine glasses from Germany, videos from France and pictures from the glass ledge at the Willis Tower in Chicago may all be things whose value is far greater than the money it cost to acquire them. So we display them with pride and keep them around us for years and years. Long after we can partake of such adventures, these items will jog our memories and warm our souls. There is no reason to let go of them, even if they get crowded out by newer items.
Some hold onto bad memories as well, but the toxic ones must be let go or they will poison your life. Perhaps you know someone who continues to stew in the hot juices of bad times. They may do so openly so that everyone gets tired of the sad tales. They may internalize these bad memories and let them eat them up from the inside out. How can you let go of such things that hurt so much? How will you ever rid yourself of past times when the thoughts are so painful you can barely speak of them? For those wallowing in evil past, it may seem an impossible task, or at least not as simple as I will now make them sound.
Let go! That’s it, just let go. Starting that process is tough, but oh so rewarding once complete. You do not need to tell the world, but you may need to tell someone. In 12 step programs they will tell you to admit to yourself and to another that you are powerless over this problem (addiction, memory, whatever). This is an important step, because the sooner you realize you can not change the past, the easier it will be to leave it behind. If you have seen portrayals of 12 step groups, you may have seen people start out by announcing who they are and what they are powerless over. Once you have said it, there is no more worry about the bad news getting out. It is out there and you can begin the process of walking away.
Some say, “Let go and let God” (higher power, fate, whatever). Leave whatever it is that bothers you in the hands of something higher or greater, because you can not change it anyway. If you are guided by what is good in your life, you can leave the past at the side of the road and travel on. In the Catholic Church, they taught us to ask forgiveness of God for what troubles us. The part about telling another, even somewhat anonymously in a dark confessional booth, may have grown to be an archaic practice for many of the faithful. Nevertheless, that part about telling yourself and telling another can be an important step in leaving the past sins, or whatever troubles you, behind. Indeed, some people with bad memories spend fortunes on psychiatrists so they can try to figure out how to say out loud what is troubling them inside. I will not pull a Tom Cruise on you and tell you there is no need for psychiatry, but I will tell you that steps forward are up to you.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a little about my past and it made brief mention of some things that even close friends and family would not know. The bad parts needed release and that may have been part of my purpose. I stated even before then that I was intrigued by a book of letters by writers to their younger selves. I did not know what would come out when I sat down at my desktop to write to the 14-year-old me, but was not too surprised at the most solid of my memories. I can understand as a result of the exercise how some traumatic moments can control you for decades into the future.
After you let go, it is time to fill in the empty spaces with the good memories. Toss what reminds you of bad times and let your pictures, videos and various souvenirs be only those of good times. Go out and make new memories to fill up your mind. If there is a lot of happy times bouncing around in side your cranium, there will be little time to dwell on what should have been purged long ago.
Let go of toxic people too! Recently a friend posted on facebook a comment that it was easier to get a toxic person out of your life than out of your thoughts. I replied that with enough good friends, the bad ones can be sent to the corners of your memory banks. He reminded me that it is harder to do with family. Yes, I know that well but if you have to trigger someone from your life, it is best to do so and stop taking the crap. Once you have moved forward, absolutely, positively do NOT do so with regrets. Do not wonder what could have been done with all the time that was wasted on someone, or worse, all the money. That just brings it back to the top of the page. For gosh sake, let go!