Forgetfulness: A Vehicle for Presence

I’m horribly forgetful. It’s almost debilitating. And I’m sure annoying/tiring/frustrating to those around me. Those around me = Andy.

Once in college I tried to take gingko biloba pills to help boost my memory. And then, I forgot where I put the bottle of pills.

Actually, that didn’t happen to me. It happened to Andy. But, it seems like me.

He tried to get me to read a book called The Memory Palace – Learn Anything and Everything (Starting With Shakespeare and Dickens). He read it and loved some of the devices to help with memory. And some of them seemed to work because they were so crazy and random (if you get a chance ask him about the salmon opening our front door). Recently, I asked him who wrote the book. He forgot the name of the author.

But I’m still much worse. I will write all manner of to-do lists, and then forget where I put them. I will write down phone numbers. I will write reminders. And then, I will walk out the front door and drive around trying to remember why I got in the car in the first place. And don’t even get me started about where I parked the car in the grocery store lot, and not only how long it takes me to remember where I parked it, but which car. At least if the babies are with me, then I can be reasonably sure it is the one with the car seats.

“One of the tragedies of our life is that we keep forgetting who we are”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Here and Now: Living in the Spirit

This morning was a prime example. I didn’t write anything down but in the madness of breakfast, letting out the dog, and getting first lunch (they eat two small lunches before and after their naps) together for the twins for the morning with the sitter, I mentally pounded in my brain all the things I needed to grab this morning: phone, headphones, phone numbers, and checkbook.

We ran out the door at 9 am. And I didn’t remember a single thing. I remembered my laptop, but not my phone. Or the headphones, phone numbers. Or my wallet. So, I dropped the babies off, and when I got to CVS and realized I had forgotten all of it, I backed out slowly and drove home.

I was annoyed. I hate rushing around. I hate losing time. I hate the feeling of screwing up the morning, and being so forgetful. I maybe exhaled a curse word. But, as I got closer to the house, I remembered the babies. When I dropped them off it wasn’t as smooth of a transition as it was last week. There were tears and clawing by both of them. At the time I felt reluctant to leave them. But, I did, and when I remembered on the drive home that they were having a hard time, I prayed for them. I prayed for their safety, and the feeling that they are loved and treasured by so many. And I found I could breathe.

“The ordinary activities I find most compatible with contemplation are walking, baking bread, and doing laundry. ”
― Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Woman’s “Work”

This driving around was an opening. An opportunity to attend to the moment. To attend to the Spirit. So, I coaxed myself towards gratitude for the unexpected quiet back at home. I let the dog out so she could do her business, and get some water. I found the phone numbers and phone, headphones, and thankfully, the wallet was in the same place I had put it yesterday. And I sat for a moment and drank in the quiet of no chatter or music or signing time songs or coffee shop radio. And I let it nourish and fill me.

It’s busyness that causes me to forget so much. Along with all those damn brain cells sucked out by the babies the chaos of everyday makes me prone to forgetfulness like it’s a disease. And while the forgetfulness today allowed me a moment to unexpectedly immerse myself in silence and solitude, it also reminds me that most experiences of busy-ness are not helpful or conducive to attending to God’s presence.

I’ve been enjoying a book recommended by a few other moms called In the Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as Spiritual Practice (The Practices of Faith Series). Bonnie J Miller-McLemore writes with a depth of wisdom and insight that I need for this season, and cautions us in the same vein:

A chaotic family life can be a faithful life. But unrelenting, brain-numbing activity is not good for anyone. We have to be extremely careful about calling this spiritual…Some of our busyness is just that: a deadening busyness that distracts and destroys the capacity for joy and awe…

Rather than glorify all this running around as somehow spiritual and sanctified, it makes sense to question the pace at which we live and to consider how to slow down. We can and should change a life that is debilitating, scheduling less, facing our unhealthy addiction to an inhumane routine, and sustaining practices that help us discern how to say no to experiences and stuff that our culture says are essential for children….

[Still], adhering strictly to strategies of simplification can impede the tumultuous richness of life by trying to clean it all up. Sometimes, realistically, it is impossible to simplify life with children. Instead we must find ways not to flee or control time but to live graciously within its entanglement.

There was a moment of entanglement today. But, grace, too. And I will take it. And not worry too much about the chaotic state of my mind. Because forgetfulness is still useful. If there’s any forgetting to do, at the beginning of each day, I will focus on the wisdom and necessity of this:

One thought on “Forgetfulness: A Vehicle for Presence

  • May 29, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Thanks for this, Mihee!

Comments are closed.