An Exercise in the Power of Memory


“Monday, Monday… can’t trust that day…”

Oh, Mamas and the Papas*… what would I do without you?

(*If you were born after 1980, you might want to Google this musical group. They had such sweet harmonies…)

I was going to say today started out fine, but that would be a lie. It started out with an email from Turbotax saying our federal return was rejected because we didn’t use the right PIN. Sigh… No worries. Hubby found my PIN, we resubmitted and all is well.

Anyway, I soldiered on and got an article written for a client… and then the day went downhill from there. Right now, I’m fighting the urge to cry, not because it’s so much about grief over my sister (that’s still an undercurrent), but because I’m annoyed with myself for indulging in a bag of popcorn. Yes, an entire bag. Not one ounce, but 16!

Now you know my dirty little secret. I am a binge eater. There’s no good reason for doing it anymore either. I purposely kept eating even though my stomach quite clearly told me I was full. That’s emotional eating for you. The mind is clearly stronger than the body.

So why did I do it? Same reasons I’ve always done it I suppose. Fear of success. Fear of being accepted for who I am. What did my coach and I talk about last Friday? Fear of being alone? I guess I need to go back and listen because those old patterns just crept back in without much of a struggle at all. Sheesh!

I’m hoping that this blog will help me sort through this stuff and allow me to let go of these stupid negative beliefs once and for all. They don’t serve me and I’m sick of them! Not sick enough to give them up today, but I do firmly believe I’m getting there. After all, I’m taking the time to talk about them here. That’s a start, right?

I am so hard on myself. Why the hell do I have to be perfect? No one is for crying out loud. When did I decide that if I couldn’t be perfect, I couldn’t accomplish anything at all? Oh yes, I’m starting to remember what my coach and I were talking about last week. Nope. It’s gone. See, there’s that mind at work again. Blocking out what I don’t want to face. Hmmm…

Let’s try to get there from another angle. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we? What’s my earliest memory? I remember going to pre-school. Had fun there, I believe. I remember my mom teaching me how to read using flash cards. I was only 3. I do remember these huge cards – probably 12 inches long – with words like mommy and daddy on them, I think.

I remember being in the hospital to get my tonsils out. I remember my mom taking me with her to visit a friend and I would hang out with her son, Teddy. Whenever we left, Teddy and I would call each other names. Don’t remember what we said, but I remember the affectionate teasing we did with each other.

I remember playing outside with other kids in the neighborhood – mostly boys though. Didn’t have any girls my age on my street. Had one or two who were younger, and another who was a couple of years older. Plenty of boys, including next door to us. Side note – I grew up in Michigan and years later, discovered that my next door neighbor now lives one town over from us in Florida. Why is he following me? LOL!

So those are some of the good memories. I have plenty more of them, thank goodness. But I also have plenty of not so good ones too. But why do I hang on to the crappy ones so much? Hmmm… this might be a good exercise to start. Everyone says to keep a gratitude journal. And that is a good practice. But maybe children of alcoholics should keep a “good memory” journal. We tend to focus so much on the negative memories, instead of the positive ones. I believe if we focused more on those positive memories, we could probably release those negative memories to the ether and start living a happier, gratitude enriched life.

So I’m going to start now. Here are 3 great memories from my childhood.

  1. Sitting around the campfire singing songs at Girl Scout camp. That was my favorite activity. It was so relaxing, watching the fire, roasting marshmallows (I’m not a s’mores fan – so I ate the marshmallows plain), and singing songs like “Where have all the flowers gone?” and “Barges”.  Let’s see if I remember the words to that one – “Barges, I would like to go with you. I would like to sail the ocean blue. Barges, have you treasures in your hold? Do you fight with pirates brave and bold? Out of my window looking through the night I can the barges flickering lights. Starboard shines green and port is glowing red, I can see the barges far ahead.”
  2. For all the crap my dad put me through, I just realized one awesome thing he did for me. (He did more, but I’ll get to that another time.) Every summer, our town had a 4th of July parade, and kids would decorate their bikes and ride at the back of parade. I just remembered that my dad decorated my bike spectacularly one year. He created an American flag out of wood and streamers and attached it to the back of my bike. I’m going to have to see if I can find a picture of that. Wow! This is a great exercise. I’m feeling really grateful for my dad right now. He never said, “I love you,” that I can remember anyway. And I don’t really remember him saying he was proud of me either. (That’s what I was talking about last week with my coach! Finally, the brain cells have kicked in.) But decorating my bike was his way of showing how much he loved me.
  3. Finally, I remember going to Elizabeth Park in Trenton, Michigan with my parents. It may have been for Memorial Day or right after school got out, I’m not sure. But we had a cookout there. I think we did this for a couple of years in a row. I seem to remember this tradition when I was in elementary school – so probably when I was 5, 6 or 7 years old. We would barbecue hot dogs and hamburgers and it was a nice afternoon. The park was on the Detroit River, and filled with a lot of trees.
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Me at age 2-1/2. This is another great memory – swinging on my backyard swingset!

Wow. This was a powerful exercise. The best part of it is that I’m not feeling terribly sad anymore. I’m feeling pretty good actually. I may even go dig through the old pictures right now and see if I can’t find that one of my bike. Oh… I almost forgot the best part of that story. I think I won best decorated bike that year! Pretty sure!  This was around 1969, so you’ll forgive me if my memory is a little spotty. It might have even been 1971, which was the year my sister won the Miss Riverview contest. But that’s a story for another day.

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