22 May 2015 4 Comments

Managing Your Energy Part 46: Memory, Intimacy & Loss

The wife of one of my best friends died eighteen months ago. He told me that one of the most painful aspects of that huge loss was that “she was the keeper of my memories.” She had been and beside him, sharing countless, varied experiences and life events for several decades. She remembered the names of friends and acquaintances, what they had shared together, their birthdays and their family members. She remembered his personal history, what things meant to him, and the value that people, words, humor, and events held for him in his evolving context.

With feeling rather than mechanically, a person can become almost like the external hard drive on which we have been backing up our life. Shared memories confer a special value on those with whom we remember them. Losing these people can be like losing a chunk of our minds, feeling less connected to ourselves and less connected to people and things that have been important.

Memory is essential to meaning, and life becomes two-dimensional without it. I’m thinking of some neurological cases in “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,” by Oliver Sacks. When we can’t remember what things or people mean to us we have lost something vital.P1070741

Memory plays a central role in intimacy. Remembering the context of another person enhances sensitivity, depth of feeling, consideration, and rapport. Shared humor develops through memory, and accrues more and more value over time. It’s a shared emotional context. We remember what the other person finds funny and build on it. We remember what events mean, and can anticipate response.

When a loved one loses his or her memory, the impact on intimacy is usually devastating and confusing. Devastating because our shared world may be shattered or gone. Confusing because we are left with the icons of that world, yet only whiffs of its emotional substance.

We have been exploring memory and healthy loving connection in the face of loss. Our personal process of dealing with loss varies widely. There is a difference, however, between memory and obsessive nostalgia, between dealing with painful loss and being stuck in the past. A healing process morphs and changes as we go along. This is different than having a stranglehold on the past.

I’ve seen people drive themselves to despair obsessing about positive memories. Intensive focus on the past can function as a way to avoid making decisions leading to an unknown future. When longing and nostalgia become a way to stay stuck, they drain the present of our Presence.

Moving closer and closer to our own essence makes change and loss more bearable. When we are gaining freedom, self-expression, or spiritual development, change is easier to embrace—even when it entails loss.

Learning to embrace loss is challenging, but it can also be engaging and awakening, especially if we can bring ourselves naked into the next phase that life has to offer.

We can begin practicing at any point to age gracefully and ultimately to die well by learning not to struggle to against unavoidable loss. Learning to stay open to possibility is one of the many benefits of cultivating Presence and essence.

Do you ever resist growth by focusing intensely on your past?
If so, what does it cost you and what do you gain from doing so?

What do you do for yourself to support yourself when you experience loss?

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4 Responses to “Managing Your Energy Part 46: Memory, Intimacy & Loss”

  1. Therese 22 May 2015 at 8:56 am #

    I have definitely been in the place where I have resisted change because I was focused on a past I thought I might lose. The gain is a perceived security. The loss is me. I always choose, eventually, to move forward because, if I don’t, the pain of staying will become so great it will force me forward. As I write this, I realize some people just stay in the pain. I can’t do that and I’m becoming less tolerant of pain. In fact, I am consciously choosing bliss and joy. When I feel any form of negativity in myself, I have begun to consciously choose to change my thoughts towards joy and bliss. I’ve just decided it is where I want to live. An interesting side note is, I appear to have become hilarious. Jeff will start laughing at me and I have no clue why. I’m confused but happy about his laughter. I’ve not heard him laugh so much in all the time we’ve been married (34 years).

    With Love,
    Therese

    • Teresa Dietze 25 May 2015 at 10:43 am #

      I certainly know what you mean. Yes, it’s important to view the costs of remaining in our patterns, not only the costs of potential change. I think where a lot of us get hung is that ‘the devil we know’ feels safer than the unknown. We may habituate to familiar pain and flinch from speculative fear without full consideration of potential rewards.

      I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: Since you have developed excellent introspection skills and can see your “stuff,” your choice to the positive is fully a positive. When people use “that” (apparent) choice as a bypass, it is more like a mechanism than a real choice, and hinders spiritual development.

      Gosh, I’d be asking Jeff what he’s laughing at. It’s great that he’s laughing. I just want IN on it. :)

      Recently I found myself in spiritual retreat hesitant to engage FULL OUT with the particular practices that tend to result in essentially un-creating one’s life. I am attracted to the freedom, clarity, and release of moving out of attaching myself to the form of my life, but I am not ready to release my practice and my home for that burning. I did get a lot out of the retreat engaging other practices and doing the ones I mentioned gently, without intensive emphasis. I thought of you since you are un-creating your life as you know it, and I so honor your courage.

      Love,

      T

      • Therese 30 May 2015 at 7:20 am #

        When you talk about choosing the apparent positive, I’d like you to explain a little more. I’m not sure I understand the apparent part.

        About Jeff’s laughing, I have asked and his reply is that I’m funny. He doesn’t get that I’m clueless or maybe he does and that’s why he laughs even harder. I don’t want to take away the pleasure of laughter so I drop it. I am willing to be unattached to how I’m funny. Interestingly, more and more people are finding me hilarious. I guess I have some sort of dry humor going on. I’m glad people are laughing. Of course I know it also means they are really relating to what I’m saying so that’s good.

        About un-creating your life, you may not need to change your location. Mine requires it in order for me to ingrain new habits more easily. Yours may just be an expansion of your current choices. Of course, I also know you know yourself well enough to suspect you’ve seen a need for expansion in a direction you aren’t quite willing to commit. You might want to follow my blog because it’s about my personal journey more than about my location. Maybe as I walk through my experiences, you can gain insight into what you want. You sound ready for what’s next, just happy with where you are. Our comfort zone is so comfortable!

        With Love,
        Therese

        • Teresa Dietze 4 June 2015 at 1:22 pm #

          Dear Therese,

          I’ll see if I can get to that in an upcoming post.

          I hope we get a chance to spend time some day. I have a very wry humor also. It’s great when someone ‘gets it’!

          Your comments are right on target. Part of me longs for a more dramatic change than my life wishes to afford. Please send me a link to your blog. :)

          Love,

          Teresa


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