The Bed Lesson: Remember Who You Are

I have a new bed. Off to the bed store I went, driven by pain and blessed with an IRS check that had some flexibility within its digits. Going to Metro Mattress, New York State’s own bedding outlet, turned out to be an educational experience. (Most things in life are educational experiences of one kind or another, I find.)

I learned many things, one of which was that I could actually afford a memory foam mattress since a market glut has driven prices down from the heady heights. But the upbeat and overqualified store manager, who graduated from college with a double major in biochem and business 8 years ago and somehow wanted me to know it, taught me a thing or two about memory foam. As I lay on a floor model bed, rolling around to feel the embrace of the magic foam, he sagely informed me: “Memory foam is called that, not because it remembers your shape. Memory foam remembers its own shape, and goes back to it every time. Guaranteed for 20 years.”

Makes sense. You don’t want your bed to have a giant imprint of your body in it. But I guess a lot of people don’t get that at first, what with the name “memory foam” and all—they get confused.

Three nights so far in my new bed and I’m loving it. I woke up in the middle of the night last night (not from pain, but because of a cat settling on my chest and drooling on my chin), and realized something very cool. At two a.m. it even seemed profound.

I realized that memory foam is how I want to be. It always knows who it is. It remembers itself. It is true to its nature. Aligned with its core being.

As a human being, I also want to remember who you are. The figurative “you”—the people in my life. I want to notice, see, hear and remember you, of course. But what is harder for me is remembering me.

For one thing, I don’t remember my life. Huge swatches of life—seemingly erased from my memory banks. I’ll go to alumni weekends and hang out with elementary and high school classmates, and someone will say, “Vanessa, remember when Mrs. Southwell….” And I’ll listen and respond: “No.” They are often surprised that I don’t have such a shocking, fun, important, humorous event at my fingertips, in my mental filing cabinet. Entire years, gone. Details—huge, significant, life altering details—missing. My theory is that a few significant traumas trained my mind to delete things to avoid retraumatizing via memory. The problem is, my subconscious is very sloppy when in erase-mode and errs on the side of getting rid of too much. I guess it figures it won’t miss anything really awful that way. But the good stuff gets lost too.

But there’s more to this memory foam lesson than retaining the details of my life, though one of the resolutions I made this year was to retrain my brain to hold on to more.  There’s also that self-knowledge I think everyone would say is important to possess. But so many people don’t. It is not so easy. We all know someone about whom we might say, “She is so wise at understanding people, but gosh, why can’t she see how messed up she is?”

Remembering our true selves is easier sometimes than others. When I am feeling very threatened, uneasy, out of sync with myself or my life, I tend to ignore the signs. I forget to remember who I am.

All the good people in the world, me included, behave well. We behave in accordance with our principles and sure, that is part of remembering ourselves. But that hard look. That close look. The inward look that is akin to sitting in a room flooded with natural light and looking at your own face in a magnifying mirror. That kind of look. Where you see the sags and wrinkles, and the beauty too. (Why is it so hard to see the beauty through the flaws?)

Remembering who I am is about being able to admit that I am worthy, loving, independent, smart, talented, committed, brave, hardworking, loyal, honest, funny, insightful and capable of great joy. Easy to write down a list of adjectives, but harder to really live every day in possession of that glorious self.

Remembering who I am is also about seeing the darker truths, some of which exist in direct opposition to my strengths. That I am fragile, controlling, needy, insecure, shy, compulsive, obsessive, anxious, feel unworthy, mask my true feelings from others and am capable of going into the dark and not finding my way out. And the list goes on. None of these things is what I want to believe about myself.  I have spent much of my life in denial of them. On the other hand, I am very willing to censure myself when it is UNwarranted. The compulsive apologies. The faux self-blame: “I’m an idiot,” “I’m a jerk,” “It’s all my fault,” “I’ll take care of it.”

It’s okay to not be to blame. It doesn’t always have to be up to me. It’s also okay to be weak or scared – these are not faults. It is okay to be good, brave, and loveable – these are not faults either. And besides, it’s okay to have faults! When we are jerks, let’s say it! Accept responsibility and take action to better ourselves. But let’s not say we’re jerks when we are just being human.

With any luck, by the time I remember how to remember who I am all the time, it will be guaranteed for more than 20 years.

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