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Remembering to Remember



When the kids were younger, they got swept up in the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon.


It ruined my life for a solid month.


We were at the beginning of the end of life as a nuclear family. No one knew this but me and even I didn’t fully consciously let myself know it. I existed in an internal crock pot of fear, desperate plotting and self loathing while setting tables, decorating the tree and setting alarms deep into the night to remind myself to move the goddamn Elf.


It became a metaphor for motherhood: The magic doesn’t work on its own; the wizard has to run around behind the curtain cranking it out 24/7.


Every morning they would wake up and race to the living room to see if that naughty Elf had flown through space to a new location. Sure enough: he had! From the mantle to the bookshelf. From the bookshelf to a branch of the tree. From the tree branch to a windowsill.


I lived in fear, that whole season, of forgetting to move the Elf.


One night I did forget but I convinced the kids the Elf had, in fact, moved. His arm was in a slightly different position, wasn't it? We leaned in to assess the situation. We looked very closely. We discussed the art of subtlety: Some of his moves might be less grand than others.


Perhaps he’s testing us, we wondered. To see if we’re paying attention?!


To my shock, the kids picked up what I was throwing down. But then again, they were desperate to believe. Aren’t we all at times? Denial isn’t just a mental health hazard. It’s also a very effective coping skill.


One of my meditation teachers used to talk regularly about “remembering to remember.” There’s a riddle in there somewhere. We don't actually forget what we know. We forget that we know.


We launch ourselves on big, complicated missions to find the thing we already possess. Kind of like the way I’ve bought countless versions of the same black shoes across the years of my life. In the moment, at the shop, seeing them under a different light, in a different context, I lose connection with the fact that I already own an almost identical version of what I’m about to buy.


Maybe this is how all patterns function. Repeat, repeat, repeat - until a disruption intervenes to break the spell. Louise Erdrich wrote: “Every so often something shatters like ice and we are in the river of our existence. We are aware.”


What has to happen to shatter the ice that keeps us encased in our habitual, fear based behaviors?


I was careful not to use the word “change” within myself when I was seeking, on a Soul level, to overhaul my life. “Change” felt too scary. It woke the guard dog of my Super Ego who would snap to attention with 101 reasons why I was nuts or endangering myself or out of my element.


Instead, I used language like: “introducing something new into my routine.”


One of the new ‘somethings’ I introduced was getting up 20 minutes earlier than normal in the mornings to do deep breath work meditations and chant along to Deva Premal’s version of the Gayatri Mantra on repeat.


I trace everything beautiful in my present tense life back to that particular ‘something’ I decided to introduce to my daily routine way back when. It’s like the butterfly effect. You can’t know how one flap is going to set a whole weather system in motion across the terrain of your life.


When we weave newness into our experiences, our awareness rises. We are less asleep and going through the motions because there is something different capturing our attention, the same way we feel extra alert when driving through roads we’ve never traveled before. We don’t want to miss our turn. We’re reading the signs, checking the map, making a specific effort to stay aligned with where we’re meant to go.


As our self awareness deepens, the quality of our lives improves. As the quality of our lives improves, we find we have more bandwidth and willingness. We begin to build off our momentum.


Suddenly, we’re rowing in a different direction. And it’s not just endless, monotonous ocean on the horizon line, forever and ever. We can see the shore. We can feel that gentle twinkle of hope, like a first star turning on its light in the night sky.


Hope is your birthright.


If it feels unlocatable lately, I wonder what kind of new ‘something’ you could introduce to your daily routine to reel it back into your field again? I wonder what kind of personal revolution this newness might spark in your own heart? And how that joy could flutter out, into the collective, and change the world at large?


With wonder and hope,