2016 was a year dedicated to personal growth and development. During the twelve month span it wasn’t always clear that progress was being made. However the end of that time it suddenly became clear to me that I wasn’t that same person who had started the year.1
The purpose of the yearlong sabbatical, which I called “The University of Me” was to discover my future by exploring my past. During the year there were a couple of key areas of concentration. One was to work through and heal old wounds. And one of the most effective suggestions adopted for this area was to use the process described in Susan Piver’s book The Wisdom of a Broken Heart to finally and forever put to bed certain painful events and experiences from my past. Although the concept was originally designed to help people recover from romantic breakups, her Seven-Day Rescue and Relief Program can be adapted to heal any wound or situation. This process was used more than once during the year to let go of old injuries.
And it turns out it had a surprising and unexpected benefit. Clearing out those memories made room for other, previously forgotten, ones to resurface. Recovered memories can have a somewhat bad reputation in our culture. That’s because the ones that make the news are usually pretty awful. However my truth is that so far the memories reclaimed are not bad ones. Instead it is as if space has been cleared for some of the good ones to finally resurface.
For example, I was recently reading a book where there was a character named ‘Cookie.’ Cookie had been my sister’s despised childhood nickname. One she had jettisoned almost as soon as she started school. Suddenly I become nostalgic for those early days when we were just “Cookie and Laurie.” Two young sisters, barely a year apart and the best of friends. It made my eyes tear up. Because we haven’t been the best of friends for a long, long time. In fact we haven’t been friends at all.
And although it made me sad, it made me happy too. To remember a time when things were different; and I had a sister and friend with whom I shared a room and a life. It made me wish that I could have ‘Cookie’ back. Who knows? Maybe someday it will be possible. At least as long as I never call her by that name.
I do not regret these new memories. Even the bitter-sweet ones. The change has enabled a more balanced view of my life. Not that the bad things didn’t happen. But then almost no one’s life in unrelentingly positive or unrelentingly negative. Even those with the most tragic of pasts usually have one or two happy memories that they can cling to for comfort. It’s important to make room to remember the good ones — no matter how rare they were in the scheme of some people’s lives. Plus it’s far too easy to allow the bad memories overshadow the good given; especially human beings’ proven negativity bias.
So try it yourself. Conduct your own personal spring cleaning. Choose some things from your past and put them to bed. Try it the Susan Piver way, or find one that works better for you. Let go of some of the things that have you stuck and are tilting the balance toward the negative. Make room to remember the good, the joyful and the possibilities. And maybe you too will be saying, ‘Thanks for the memories.’
1 Though, true to form, it only made me wish the ending point had been where that starting point so even more progress could have been made. but then I wouldn’t be at the end point without the journey, so what can you do?