Updated: May 16, 2020
I have a hard time getting rid of things. I attach sentiment and meaning to stationary objects like nobody's business. I know I'm not the only one who does this, some of my friends and family do it, too.
While it's sweet to be reminded of certain memories and events in my life by a little memento, I've started to think that it's probably not healthy to do all the time. For one thing, I know I usually don't even find the object useful, other than to bring those memories to mind. I've also seen it play out (in my life and others') to the point of holding on to so many things that it becomes overwhelming, but still being unable to let go.
I've started to want to simplify, because when there are fewer distractions around me I'm more likely to pay attention. When there are fewer things piling up my mind has space to be filled with the present. When there are fewer objects in my line of sight I'm more likely to focus on the people who are here with me, the ones I'm making the memories with.
Because, really, it's all about the people you make those memories with.
The fun thing about making memories with other people is that, even if you don't remember a specific event, there's a chance that they will. And even if neither of you remember what happened, you still spent that time growing and having fun together.
That's called friendship, and it has so much more to do with your time spent with another person than scraps of paper or knick-knacks that you take home with you afterward.
I'm not saying knick-knacks and mementos are wrong. I have plenty of them hanging around my home. I'm saying that when we refuse to get rid of every little reminder of a good time, we eventually get to the point where we are living so much in the past that we can't enjoy the present or future.
We get to a point where we run out of space for all our little reminders, and then we feel overwhelmed because there's no room for more. How can we go out and make memories if we can't remember it afterward? It's a self-made prison.
I've started telling myself that it's okay to forget.
It's actually a really hard thing to tell myself, because I don't want to forget all these special moments with the people I love. But I know some things about myself that make it easier to be easy on myself.
I'm in my twenties and I already know my memory's not great. It's never been simple for me to memorize, even important information for school or verses for Bible quizzing at church. The things I want to memorize take a lot of extra time and intentionality.
I was challenged over a year ago to work on Bible memorization. I decided I wanted to know Psalm 46. I have been so blessed by that decision, and I am grateful that I can still remember most of it today, even if I don't recall every word exactly right or mix up some of the verses. That Psalm has come in handy so many times for my fearful self. But I worked really hard to get to that point, and I try to recall the whole thing as often as I can in order to keep it fresh in my mind.
Another thing I know about myself is that strong memory does not run in my family. Or rather, memory loss does run in my family. So I know that, if I did hang on to those little reminders, someday eventually those wouldn't even bring to mind what they do now.
It's hard to not be afraid to forget.
But God tells us not to fear.
An argument could be made that God also tells us to remember. And he does, quite a bit! But specifically He says to not forget His goodness and the things He has done for you. We are told to remember to praise Him, no matter the circumstances.
When I watched my grandma's memory begin to fade, there was a lot of grief and confusion. Both her and her daughters would occasionally get upset by her lack of memory (this was when she was aware enough to realize she was forgetting things). I remember her hand repeatedly hitting her head, as if to try and knock those memories back in place, and telling her it's okay to not remember everything.
She is past that stage now, and even though she often doesn't know who we are, I am grateful because she is now more joyful. Even if she doesn't remember who we are, if we come and sit with her and read the Bible or sing praise songs, she'll sing along. She's praising her God, no matter the circumstances, and that's the only thing she needs to remember.
It's okay to not remember everything.
I tell myself that now because I need to give myself grace, too. Even though I'm young, even though I don't have the excuse of "mom brain" or medical memory loss (yet). I need to give myself grace now so that someday I don't hate myself for not remembering.
That doesn't mean I shouldn't try to remember. I will still challenge myself to memorize verses. I will still sit back with my husband and family and friends and recall events that took place long ago. I might not remember some of the things mentioned, but I can still enjoy your retelling of what took place, what I said, what we did together.
That's the joy of making memories together.
So I forgive myself. I look at that clutter and take it apart piece by piece, letting the memories wash over me. If needed, I take a picture to save in digital storage or write the memory down, though I may never look at them again. Then I take that item to a place where someone else can appreciate it more for what it is. Most things are meant to be so much more than memory holders.
I've found, then, that when there are fewer things it's easier for what remains to find a place. When there are fewer things, it feels like I have more space. When there are fewer things, I can make room in my life for the people to come in.
It's people who matter the most, anyway.
I'd like to invite you to make room. If you're like me, it won't be easy, but the good things in life rarely are. Then, when you aren't as burdened down by memories of the past, I urge you to go out and make new ones. Not just to look back on, but for the sake of living life and loving others.