I have an excellent memory. I remember (see-- this is what I'm talking about) in every grade, all the way through college, people used to tell me how smart I was. And while I secretly agreed with them, I'd brush it off with: "I just have a great memory. Anyone can memorize a bunch of facts. It's what you do with the facts you know that makes you smart."
I remember a lot of stuff. It was easier a year or ten ago. Now, it's easier to remember that I used to know something than remember something I actually know. It's not just the esoterica of an earlier life-- the bits and pieces of a liberal arts education that seemed so important to know at one time, I remember that I used to know things-- about genetics and geography, constitutional law and the 14th century Holy Roman Empire. If there even was a Holy Roman Empire by then. I could google it, but-- you get the point. I remember I used to know all that stuff.
And it's not just names (I was never good at those). Words escape me (which terrifies me on several different levels). You've got to know of my love affair with words by now. I love how they taste and feel and sing. I know a lot of words. Favorite book? The Oxford English Dictionary, with its etymologies and magnifying glass-- that and a good cup of coffee will keep me happy for days. My motto is "why use ten words when a hundred will do?"
These days, I"ll be writing or talking, and I'll look for a word. I know it's there. It means something like something else. I can almost see it, floating on dust motes or dancing a pixilated waltz across my screen. And I can't remember it. It ain't coming. Not no way, not no how. It makes me want to scream: Aaaaargh! It's almost there! Dammit, I had it just a second ago.
Except it wasn't just a second ago. It was sometime before, in the Not Now. I used to know it. Can feel it's outlines, ghost-like in my memory, but less real. Sometimes, when I'm lucky, if I tiptoe away from it, take a minute or ten to breathe, it drifts back into view, ready for me to capture.
This is facts and figures, though, not the remembery stuff of Elul.
If I take this journey in an effort to really see who I am, where I fit, how I connect to you and to God, then I must remember, not the facts of my life, but how I showed up, what I brought with me, what I took away. It's not a catalog of events, but rather a collection of me-- all of me. this is pay every attention to the man behind the curtain. This is the me without subterfuge or camouflage, raw and honest and vulnerable-- not to the slings and arrows in your quiver, but to the mirrors I hold in my hands.
My mother tells me "Stacey, you only remember the bad things." And I do remember that. there are times (it shames me to admit) that I feel as if I carry a secret invisible scorecard in my head, tallying up all the slights and hurts that have wounded me. And trust me-- I do not have a companion tally of my part in any of this. My scorecard is, ever and always, the story of how you failed me or were at fault. Poor me, poor me. Poor, poor pitiful me, garbed in righteous indignation and crowned in moral superiority.
This is also not the stuff of Elul.
It is about setting aside my imaginary scoreboard. It's about understanding my part in my own life, and where we fit in it together. It's remembering that we all walk our own path to God, and my job is to be kind, to have compassion, to forgive. It's remembering the good stuff, the small and gentle stuff, the individual moments of holiness, the sudden and surprising depths of wonder and joy. It's about showing up, ready to shine a light and find the beauty of my humanity.
And when I do, when I can remember and see all of me, without fear of what I might find, I become ready to walk through the gates that will be flung wide for me-- for all of us.