Memory is fickle.
On a good day, I find myself reminiscing of wonderful things past. A child taking a first step. A family vacation at the lake. The day I signed my first book contract.
On a bad day, however, I recall my life as simply one failure after another. The lost friends. The failed projects. The betrayal.
The truth, of course, is that everyone's life – past and present – is filled with both good and bad.
Betrayal complicates things further. By coming into possession of new information about our past, memory becomes distorted. Does knowing now that my husband cheated on me when pregnant alter the joy I felt at my first child's birth? My memory of that incredible moment is now revised. I've let my newfound knowledge color my memories – leaving me with a wedding album I can't bear to look at and family photos that give me pain.
It's important to remind ourselves that we needn't revise our memories. Though it can be helpful to re-navigate the past, to look again at events or feelings that, knowing what we know now, might have given us greater pause, it doesn't ultimately change anything. Especially our truth in those moments.
My daughter's birth was an incredible time for me. Whether my husband had conflicting feelings, being in possession of the knowledge that he had cheated, doesn't alter my truth in that moment. Nor does it alter all the wonderful days I've spent and successes I've had.
Of course, I can use memories to determine how I'll respond when faced with similar situations. But I'm applying that knowledge and reassessment to the future.
And that's important.
Wendy Strgar, whom I've quoted on this site before and who has a wonderful business dedicated to healthy "love products", says in this blog that memory can offer us wisdom, when we process what we've learned in order to make better choices for ourselves in the future. "The memories born of this internal struggle have the capacity to heal not only the past, but give us a path to a future that we can invest our hope in," she writes.
Lewis Smedes also reminds us that "a healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for the future."