Focus on the road ahead

Memory is a funny thing! My husband is a virtual encyclopedia of geographical, historical, mathematical, and Biblical “facts.”
I, on the other hand, left most of my “facts” in school, but I have a wonderful memory for “people.”
So when someone in my water exercise class talks about Trinidad or the Philippines, I wait until I get home to find out where the country is located.
If I want to know the capital of Nicaragua, what era Julius Caesar lived in, or the square root of 16, the same applies.
But when it comes to people, my husband relies on me. We complement each other perfectly!
When my husband wants to know the name of a person approaching, he asks me. I remember many of his students from 30 years of college teaching—and often their parents.
When names come up from years ago, I usually remember what people did, where they lived, and how many children they had.
I like people, and all of these wonderful memories enrich my life. But there is a serious downside.
Like an elephant, who builds up social memories over the years, I sometimes have difficulty forgetting the small slights and hurtful things people have said.
And I also regret the unkind things I may have said or done—long after the recipients have forgotten.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m the only person who has this problem. Most of us have too much personal “baggage” with other people.
It reminds of an illustration I saw in David Leonhardt’s book, “Climb your Stairway to Heaven: The 9 habits of maximum happiness.”
Leonhardt illustrated this book himself with simple stick drawings that pack a punch!
In the “Take your hand off the hot stove” chapter, a woman holds her hand on a hot sizzling burner as she dances with pain.
The caption of the cartoon read, “Linda could not convince the stove to stop burning her.”
Notice the stove wasn’t at fault! All Linda had to do was remove her hand from the stove.
Simple, isn’t it? But if it’s so simple, why do we have so much difficulty letting go of pain?
If you have trouble letting go of hurts and grudges from the past, remind yourself that it’s easier to forget the slights than to remember!
Leonhardt gives an illustration from “Alice in Wonderland” about forgetting.
“‘The horror of that moment I shall never forget,’ the King went on.
‘You will, though,’ the Queen replied. ‘If you don’t make a memorandum of it.’”
So don’t make a “memorandum” of every little slight or cynical word. Throw out the bad memories of guilt. And gradually let go of grief.
After my mother died, I had two dates circled on my calendar: June 10 and Nov. 17–the day she was born and the day she died. But, I always had a twinge of sadness when the dates rolled around.
Then one year, I decided not to circle the dates. Now, I focus on the happy memories as they come to mind.
It’s very important to let go of the past. You can’t look both ways at the same time.
So why not begin today letting go of hurtful memories, and focusing on the road ahead.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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