Once an elephant longed to stop remembering. Memory could be a real burden, it felt, hanging on one like the pull of extra pounds. Even good memories could turn thick and heavy if they reminded you of blue skies in the past when today had a cloud or two on the horizon. Worse, of course, were the bad memories. These grew larger and heavier each time they came to mind, as if the mere act of recollection doubled their oppressive bulk. And yet, when it looked around at the world, the elephant gathered that life was in fact supposed to be one feel-good moment followed by another. “Think positive! Think happy!” it heard from all sides. The elephant alone, evidently, remembered anything in its life that was not positive and not happy. As might be expected, the elephant didn’t get much sympathy from acquaintances, who were made uncomfortable by the endless return of its mind to old torments. It was thoughtless, bad manners even, to disturb them with reminders of life’s trials and setbacks. What were they supposed to do about any of that? “Just get over it,” was the most frequent advice they had for the elephant. “Don’t you think it’s time to move on?” But how, the elephant agonized? How shrug off the burden of memories and lead the carefree life that everybody else was so confident of having found? Then one Sunday the secret was revealed to the elephant as it sipped its morning latté and listened to a radio interview with the author of the runaway best seller Twelve Painless Steps to Creative Closure. “There isn’t anything that can’t be put behind you,” the recognized closure maven had declared. “Whatever nagging memory bothers you, large or small, it can’t for long if you just find the strength to tell yourself, ‘I don’t deserve this. Any of it.’ That’s the first step to the carefree life you really do deserve.” The elephant bought the book that very afternoon and was amazed to find how important the advice repeated over and over in it about “saying goodbye to all those bothersome recollections” had become in the lives of so many. The pages were filled with heart-warming accounts of recoveries from “devastating tragedy” and show-biz testimonials to the power of the Creative Closure approach. There were even six-step and three-step versions of the program for those on a tight schedule. Following the book’s handy tips, the elephant found it was indeed able to put more and more of what had troubled it out of its mind. Even what seemed at first to be searing anguish could, with a little effort, be reduced to what the book described as “manageable pain” and then to a dull unpleasantness and finally to practically nothing at all. Coming out of each stage in the process, the elephant walked with a lighter step and a more cheery disposition. Not only that, but old acquaintances found the elephant’s company agreeable once again, since it no longer had the tiresome habit of reminding them of past sorrows or losses or regrets, theirs or anyone else’s. Together, they could all look forward to a day when it would seem as if none of these unwelcome distractions had even happened. Once you got the hang of it, living without memory proved to be much easier than the elephant had ever imagined.
Copyright © 2003-2004, revised 2007, by Geoffrey Grosshans