Pretend You Have Amnesia

Imagine you are waking up right now in a hospital bed without your memories. A person comes in and says you love them. They take you to a building and say that you chose it as a place to sleep and to keep your things. Others wait inside. They say they love you. Some say you share genetic material. They wear certain things – look down. Do you look like them? You ask about small items on a counter. “They’re yours,” someone says, “they’re important to you.” The soap in the bathroom was chosen, on some basis, above all the other soaps. Look at your body. What do you see? What did you expect to see? All around you is evidence, and you have no way to interpret it.

Imagine you are nobody, you are nameless, and you are handed a life and told, “This is yours now. It’s already started. You can take it from here”. The very moment you hear those words, your true self kicks in. You may check within yourself to see if the words sparked a sensation of ownership. You might start a filing system in your brain for new information bits. You may feel strong emotions, and search for a way to express them. Maybe you are trusting, maybe not. Maybe you want to think on it alone, or maybe you want to grab all the people who look interesting and go get some food and figure it out later.

Of course, the life you were handed would play a strong role in your reaction to these new circumstances. You have no idea how it came to be, or why. I’m sure you’ll be puzzled by some aspects of it. Why are there elephant statues everywhere? Do you really need all these bottles and tools and potions in the bathroom? Is your favorite color really purple? Were you passionate about personal finance or forklift operating or whatever you get money from? What is money to you? Suppose you see a brand new car in the driveway, and a mountain of debt in your records. As a blank slate… do you think that’s wise? Let’s say the man who calls himself your boyfriend hits you. He seems surprised that you’re surprised. As a blank slate… do you not wonder, what the hell was going on here?

Your habits all have origin stories, good and bad. Lose the root of the tree and you’ve got random hunks of wood laying on the ground in a heap. If anyone else came upon this heap they too would wonder why it exists. It sure looks weird. It sure seems to have no purpose.

Without the memories of all your origin stories, your life is that heap of disjointed parts. You may have never questioned something before. You may have always said “I’m NOT an addict!” But suppose you wake up in a hospital with no memories. The nurse is very sweet and she hands you some clothes and they seem tattered but that’s okay, you’re kind of relieved that you don’t seem to have been very pretentious. One less thing to worry about! You take a cab to the address on the post-it, feeling pretty sick and woozy and figuring some good food will sort you out. Right there in the living room: drugs, rubber, spoons. Little else. You would not say you’re not an addict. I don’t care who you are, I think you’d cry.

And when you have finished crying, I think you’ll get to work. The things that hold us back have roots as well. And they’re just as gone. You don’t remember the people who didn’t believe in you in your formative years. You don’t remember the girl who broke your heart. You don’t remember the 8,457 times you tried and failed to do something or stop doing something. You are clear and pure. You are you. And you are a human, made in God’s image. You know what good is. You’ll have no trouble identifying which parts of the tree are rotten. And it won’t take you long to get hacking. Your arms will swing freely, with power, unencumbered by whatever was keeping that old tree from growing properly.

People say “follow your heart” as if your heart is infallible, as if logic is the enemy of happiness. But most of the time when we do things that aren’t good for us it’s because of emotions. Because they beat us and confuse us, or because we’ve been trained not to question them. But emotions only exist; they have no knowledge, they can’t make decisions. That’s our job. If you look at your life as though you don’t remember it – as if you have no idea WHAT you were feeling when you first said, “Hey abusive buffoon, will you please move in with me?” – then you’ll see that it really doesn’t MATTER what you were feeling then. In fact, the question “why” will only skip past your brain for a second. What you’ll really be focused on is, “What is the fastest way to get myself OUT of this situation??” 

Our imaginations are powerful. It’s how we empathize. So empathize with yourself.

Pretend you have amnesia. Pretend you’ve just been magically planted in this body and this life, but it’s YOURS now. Will you shoot up, just because there’s everything you need to shoot up right there on the coffee table? Will you stay with that guy, just because he’s the one standing in front of you? Will you resign yourself to a rusty old bloated body, to wheezing up stairs and daily indigestion, simply because that’s how things were when you got here? I don’t think so. I think you’ll take charge. It’s YOUR life now. If you don’t like something, you’ll simply go about fixing it. Hack away, you’re not attached to this pile of wood anymore. You’ve got your own tree to create; get to it.

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