Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Power of Memory

Do you ever feel kind of like the wold is crumbling around you? Over the past month or two, so many of our friends and family have hit incredibly difficult trials. We remain untouched (knock on wood), aside from sharing their grief and wondering how we can help. A couple major things hit this week, so it's all been on my mind lately.

And then I came across an email my mom sent me a while back with a suggestion for a post. As I read the email, I felt that it wasn't a coincidence and that I am supposed to post about it tonight.

It's based on a quote from Sterling W. Sill, a former general authority (or leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints):

"A memory can be trained to forever see virtue, beauty, and faith as it was experienced at its highest point. One of the most devastating hazards threatening the quality of our lives is forgetfulness... Hang on the walls of your mind the memory of your successes. Take counsel of your strength, not your weakness. Think of the times when you rose above your average level of performance, and carried out an idea or a dream or a desire for which you had deeply longed. Think of the great moments in your life. Hang these pictures on the walls of your memory and look at them as you travel the roadway of life... Memory can also be our shield in temptation, our courage in weakness, and our anchor in Godliness."

My mom always sends such good things my way. Don't you like that quote? I do.

It's so easy to get caught up in remembering our failures and our struggles. But he's right, we can train our memories. If you've got positive and negative to choose from, why choose the negative? There's no purpose in that. But in remembering your successes and triumphs, you can relive that joy and motivate yourself to continue in that way.

Without really realizing it, this is one of the best tools I've been using to overcome my depression. I think I've told you before that I used to always tell myself "I can't do this." And that was that. I would call HH in tears and beg him to come home early from work because I couldn't handle mothering my children and making dinner and cleaning the house, etc.

But HH knew I could. And that if he left work early ever day, he'd probably get fired. So, he didn't come home early. It made me mad even though I knew he couldn't really do anything differently. But I've always told him that I never claim to be a rational being. I'm not.

Anyway, getting back on track, things started to improve and so I found myself not even thinking about placing those calls any more. Then one day, a month or two ago, it happened. And I picked up the phone and started to dial. But then I thought about all those other times that I called and he didn't (couldn't) come home. I survived each and everyone of those days. They weren't great days, but I survived them on my own until he was able to get home.

So, I hung up the phone before he answered and put it back in its place.

And then I think we played Candy Land and we actually ended up having a fine remainder of the day.

But the point is, since then there have been a couple other times that I've been tempted to place that call and then I remember that day. I can even remember exactly where I was standing when I hung up, is that weird? But I picture it. And I remember my sudden awareness of my own strength and I draw on that. And we survive.

And HH is so relieved to not receive those calls anymore because, as I'm sure you can imagine, they were super hard on him, too.

It's a small thing, maybe. But for me, that memory of that moment when I said "no" to letting my depression win, just for one night, is huge. It's all that I need to say "no" time and time again.

But I believe we can use Elder Sill's advice in a whole variety of circumstances. When I get frustrated about not being in the kind of shape I'd like to be, I remember my triathlon last year, and I know I can get there again. And when I feel discouraged about my abilities, I remember all the hard work and training I put into that, and I know I can accomplish anything if I have a goal and a plan and put in the day-to-day effort.

A couple weeks ago, Little M asked if we could go to the zoo after naps. I told him we'd see. He woke up and asked again and I said "yes". He's talked about that a few times, to me and other friends.

One time, I asked Mommy if we could go to the zoo--and she said 'yes'!!!

The look on his face as he retells it, let's me know that memory is bringing him huge amounts of joy (and maybe that I need to say 'yes' to his suggestions more often!).

I know you've all had moments of triumph. Whether it's putting down the phone when you're really tempted to make a useless phone call, or climbing Mount Everest. You've done great things. If you're shaking your head 'no', then you really need to dust off that memory and start retraining it. Focus on those moments of success, big and small. They will bring you joy.

And they will buoy you up when the hard times come. And they will come. But you can persevere. Because you're strong and you can do hard things. Just remember the hard things you've already done.

To those of you going through the hard times right now, I just want to say, I'm sorry. I wish I lived close to each of you so I could bring you dinner and give you a hug. But you are in my prayers. I love you.


Jen said...

I really enjoyed your story about not calling HH when you have a bad day and begging him to come home. There are many times when I feel the same way. Rarely do I call because I know that it is hopeless, regardless if I ask, but I still want to ask. . . . I'll have to *remember* your hint to *remember* that I've done it before, I can do it again. Add that one more piece of armor to the reservoir of mom-strength.

Nikki said...

Cheryl, you are so sweet. I am so appreciative of you sharing your life.

Meg said...

this is just what i needed to hear today. thank you so much. and i love that quote.