Most of the information that clouds my brain can be put into two categories: don’t forget, and can’t forget. This past year, I’ve made a conscious decision to do away with both. The result? Liberation. Let me explain.
For most of my 37 years, I kept track of things, not on to do lists, or in calendar entries, but in my brain. Floating among my 100 billion neurons, were thoughts like, “Buy birthday present. Make dentist appointment. Pay doctor bill. Plan date night. Call friend from college. Replace light bulb. Write newsletter. Pay IT vendor.” And on. And on. And as my family grew, and my work grew, and well, I grew, the mental list, or mental load, as it is oftentimes called in mommy groups, continued to grow.
For a long time, I took pride in my mental list. Look how much I can remember! Look how much I take care of! I scoffed at people who had to “check their calendar” or set reminders. They were human. I on the other hand, was a super woman. And for a long time, at least from the outside, it seemed like this system was working. Presents were being purchased, events were attended, bills were paid. But internally, I was crumbling under the weight. I’d shoot up at night, startled by an errant thought about something I was worried I had forgotten to take care of. And despite the toll this haphazard life management strategy was taking on me, I carried on. And on. And on. Despite my husband’s pleas to put things in the goddamn calendar. I carried on, until, simply put, I couldn’t.
"And despite the toll this haphazard life management strategy was taking on me, I carried on."
Because somewhere after thirty, after having my twins, after starting my second business, after getting pregnant with my third... my. Brain. Stopped. Cooperating. It refused to remember. Things started to slip. I was in trouble. I was double booking appointments. That was really the first sign that things couldn’t continue. A breakfast meeting overlapped with parent teacher conferences. A trip to speak at a conference overlapped with a vacation to Miami with my husband that we already bought plane tickets for. As much as I wanted to wing it, I couldn’t anymore. So I succumbed to my calendar. I started a running To Do list on my Notes app on my iPhone. I started setting recurring reminders for things that had to be done regularly. And slowly but surely, I felt the fog lifting as I cleared my brain of the unnecessary clutter I had unknowingly been carrying around.
But this is only half the story.
The other half is about how I learned to forget.
"I carry regrets around like rocks in my pockets that I’m constantly polishing with my present thoughts."
Because I am someone who remembers the past, intensely. Consistently. Over and over again. I carry regrets around like rocks in my pockets that I’m constantly polishing with my present thoughts. It can be as simple as getting dressed in the morning. Red sweater, or blue. Whatever I choose, I instantly replay the decision and make myself believe I made the wrong on. Again. Again, and then again. I say something to a friend. I fear I said something wrong. I replay, replay, replay what happened… my personal Superbowl of self-doubt. And so the crevices of my mind that weren’t already filled with my exceedingly large mental load, were being filled with moment-by-moment regrets from the distant and present past. More clutter, more weight, more distraction to make me feel small and pull me away from my life’s purpose. Which isn’t to remember: but to heal, and in the process share my story and help others do the same.
So I’ve conditioned myself to forget this kind of information, too. Whatever is done, is done. Whatever is said, is said, I feel what needs to be felt, and leave it behind. Like a bag of clothes that don’t fit (and haven’t fit for a decade) that finally goes to goodwill. I disengage from the seduction of nostalgia. I Marie Kondo my brain: if it doesn’t spark joy, I let it go.
"I Marie Kondo my brain: if it doesn’t spark joy, I let it go."
I no longer care to be a super woman. I no longer take pride in martyring myself or doing things the hard way. I no longer bury myself under the weight of regrets, or the weight of future responsibilities. I am instead, a free woman. Or free-er, at least. I am trying to use technology not to distract myself, but to liberate myself. If it doesn’t need to be in my brain, I gladly relinquish it to Siri or Alexa’s. And when I start slipping and fall into old habits, #myringismyreminder to put it in the goddamn calendar.
What would you become free to think about, to do, to feel, if you broke free from the chains of remembering?
Picture: a snap of my running To Do List on my Notes App. Any errant thought that passes through my brain about something I need to do gets added to this list. The list is called, To Do(minate). Checking things off is the ultimate satisfaction.