I have a friend that I truly love, but I had to distance myself from her because she hurt me again and again. Every once in a while she comes back into my life and I forget only to get hurt again. Silly, silly me, I think to myself. Silly, silly me!
Sometimes parenting can seem like the loneliest job on the planet. I forget that people have raised adolescent girls since the beginning of time and they all have survived. I will too.
It is incredibly easy to forget the abundance of privilege I have been given in this life of mine. Then there are the moments when I sit in my classes and listen to the pain of the people I work with. It is an instant reminder of just how insanely lucky I am.
My students at Homeboy Industries tell me again and again how hard it is to forget where they come from, that the gang and the violence are rooted in their blood. I beg to differ.
“Ms.,” they say. “When you grow up like us, it’s in you. It’s hard to change.”
I laugh and say, “Look around you. Did you forget where you are right now? YOU are the change in this moment.”
“Oh,” They nod, agree, and laugh right back at me, with me.
Forgive and forget.
I usually forget, and then find it hard to forgive.
Because when I remember that’s when it hurts.
“Forget about it,” someone says, and you know they are keeping a tab.
“Never forget” is the mantra we are told about the Holocaust. Yes, we must never EVER forget, so that it doesn’t happen again.
I always, always forget names. You tell me your name, the moment after you said it, poof…it’s gone.
I work with so many kids and adults I have no capacity to remember names. I’ll tell you this, I never forget a face, or how someone has touched me. One of my beloved team members actually holds the name superpower. She hears a name and will never forget it. Last year I witnessed her remember close to 100 names in our summer teen program. Amazing!
I have worked with women who have suffered great trauma and abuse in their life. They pray to forget. What I have learned is that by simply listening to their story we can ease the pain. It is actually about bringing the pain into the light and not leaving it in the dark that takes the edge away.
“Ms.,” she asked me in her quiet, little voice.
“How do I forget what he did to me?”
“You don’t,” I say to her.
“You actually remember. You remember how it felt and use that to make sure no one does that to you again. Use that pain as a shield.”
This young woman was used and abused by the pimp she worked for.
She was 12 when she met him, worked in the streets at 13, incarcerated at 14, and entered my program when she was 15.
“I want to forget who I was,” she told me.
“Who you were is part of who you are today,” I tell her.
Honestly, for the life of me I cannot imagine this tiny, fragile girl as the person in the stories I heard about her.
“So, what you are saying is that it’s good to remember everything, and then use it to protect me instead of running away from it? That is deep, Ms., real deep,” she adds.
That wasn’t exactly what I was saying, but it sounded really good when she said it. These girls I teach, teach me more sometimes than I teach them.
I have so much going on in this busy life of mine. I forget things all the time. It doesn’t help that I am not so good with technology.
A few weeks ago I missed the 90th birthday of one of my favorite women on this planet. I simply forgot, for some reason I didn’t get a reminder on any of my devices.
I was mortified.
But I owned it.
I told her. I apologized and I fixed it.
You see, that is the thing about forgetting. It’s when you remember you realize you forgot, but then, you can and should do the best to fix it.
Fixing doesn’t mean you do what you forgot. Fixing means you do something else to replace what you forgot, something better, because we should always try to do better.
“You don’t need to forget who you were,” I told the young girl.
“You aren’t her anymore. You are a new, improved her.
Or perhaps someone completely different.”
“Yeah!” she said and then amazing me again, she said,
“If I forget who I was, Ms., I will not be who I am.”
“That’s right,” I say.
“Now look who is being deep,” I say and smile at her.
“Well, don’t forget who taught me that,” she grins.
And I breathe, because sometimes I simply forget to breathe.
I breathe and remember that this is why I do what I do.
What do you need to remember to be the best you?