I like to think I have a pretty spectacular memory.
And yet, I never remember just how much of a mess tie dye can be. If I did, I would probably never ever do it.
This is the thought I was having this afternoon as Danny and I were tie dying masks in the kitchen and the incredibly pigmented dye was making a run for it in all directions. It has been a few years since I have embarked on such a project and it will likely be quite a few years before forget I said I would never do it again.
I’ve been thinking today about the large and small things that we remember. The pieces of our lives that remain in crystal clear in our minds, the parts we throw away completely, and the things in the middle that we file away to find again some day with the right prompting.
Memory can be tricky business; though it may start off as a record of the events and interactions that we experience, what you remember will ultimately be little more than the story that we tell ourselves about our lives. How reliable of a narrator you are determines the details of your story is, and that story is used to shape who you are and what you do.
Because remembering something comes with a certain responsibility; if you don’t believe me, just think how often “no one remembers” how the mess got made or who broke the Thing or How School Went Today. Admitting that you have an answer to any of those things could lead to consequences or, even worse, further questions.
To remember something or someone should be more than just an emotional response – its an action item. It should inspire you and inform your decisions. It may help you discern a calling, or warn you of potential danger. It could do all of those things at the same time.
A few years back I had the words “fearfully and wonderfully made” tattooed on my forearm. At the time I was working in a special education classroom with a child who was uniquely gifted but intermittently aggressive. He reminded me a lot of Danny at the time, and supporting him left a mark; emotionally and physically. The tattoo had nothing to do with him – I had dreamed and decided on it years before I had even met him.
The week after my arm was done, I found myself wrapped up one of the worst moments for my student at school. Even as I sit here right now, most of what I know I would have described as unforgettable about that afternoon has fallen away. What I remember most is the end: when he was calm and the storm had passed, he was so exhausted he fell asleep on the other side of the mat that I was holding between us. We were outside and mercifully, it was a beautiful day. The breeze stung my arm, as my fresh tattoo had been scratched and hit so much it was raw and weeping. And I saw him sleeping there, waiting for his Mom, and felt the whole of my soul remember: fearfully and wonderfully made.
They aren’t words I ever forget; I can’t imagine ever not knowing them. But because I remember them, I know what parts of that story will make it into my story.