The theme for the month of November is Memory, and given that the Holidays are now upon us, many of us will be thinking of holidays past, perhaps thinking of beloved family members who are no longer with us.
It doesn’t take much to trigger a memory—our brains are hardwired to associate all our senses with memory to help us remember things. In the distant past, this was used for survival. If that person recalled that a particular smell happened right before the saber-toothed tiger attacked, or heard a particular growl, then that person was likely to live longer. In our modern sensibilities, sometimes memory can be so strong it’s like you’re living that particular moment over again.
Back in the early 1990’s, I recall a song by Patricia Yearwood titled, “The Song Remembers When.” There are songs that I hear, either on the radio or on my smartphone, that can literally bring me back to an exact place and time in my life. I’m sure you all have those moments too. Where we run into trouble is when those memories can cloud our judgement or perception of what’s happening today. This idea was used for comic effect in one of my favorite Christmas movies, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The main character, Clark Griswold, played by Chevy Chase, spends the length of the movie trying to re-create the magic of Christmas from his childhood. Therein lies the chaos that ensues for the length of the movie. I think this is where many of us get trapped this time of year—we see the past through a sentimental lens and don’t see what’s in front of us, for good and for bad. The uncle that you had a lot of fun with as a child now might be sitting at the Thanksgiving table espousing the latest he heard from Fox News, and it’s hard to maintain your feelings for who they were and who they are now. The question then becomes, how does one deal with this? I believe the best way is to remember who they were, and set boundaries for who they are. And probably change the subject, if possible.
So, in this month of Memory, let’s remember those who are no longer with us, and remember who we are with now because, someday, we’ll hopefully be the pleasant memories for others.