Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I recently received the neatest little book. It is called Q&A a Day and is designed to be a five-year journal. Each day of the year has a page with a question at the top and a space for you to briefly answer that same question on the same day each year for five years. The goals is to look back after five years to see how your answer differed, or stayed the same, over time.

One of last week's questions was, "What do you want to forget?" I haven't answered it yet, because I'm still ruminating about my answer. At first pass I would say something like, "I want to forget all the mistakes I've made in my life," or "I want to forget every time I was hurt or in pain." But on a second, deeper pass, I know those are not the answers.

We all understand the wisdom of learning from the mistakes we've made, so we know we have to remember our mistakes in order to keep from repeating them. That includes mistakes I made, knowing at the time I made them, that it was a mistake. Those times taught me about my needs and weaknesses and just how far I am willing to go to satisfy them. As painful as they are to relive, I know I can't forget those either. 

Then there is the question of forgetting the times I have been hurt. Long ago I decided that forgiveness was the way to go, not out of some noble or religious reason, but out of pure selfishness. Carrying a grudge consumes a lot of energy that could be directed somewhere else, toward something that would actually improve my life. Maintaining that hurt, feeding it and keeping it alive also gives way too much control of my life to someone else. So I have chosen to forgive and get on with it. Does that mean I forget? No, not generally.

If I was hurt unintentionally by someone, I can forget that. I know my big mouth has gotten me into trouble many times and I would appreciate those I've hurt forgetting those cases as much as possible. But what about when someone said or did something cruel, knowing full well at the time the damage it caused? I realize that they were fighting their own demons and that is what forged their behavior. I can forgive that; but forget? I think wisdom would dictate cautiousness and an arms-length future relationship. After all, someone who needs to inflict pain on others may never truly heal.

So now we are back to the original question, "What do I want to forget?" and I now have the answer.  Algebra. I want to forget algebra. I know it had its purpose when I was in school. I needed to pass tests and get a high math score on the SAT. Later, when I went to graduate school, I needed it for the GRE and to do data analysis. But now? Nope.

I am married to a numbers genius. I am serious. The man can do quadratic equations in his head. It's enough to make me hate him sometimes because I was one of those people who never intuitively understood algebra. I loved geometry and trigonometry because I could hang the concepts on pictures -- circles, triangles, etc. -- so it made sense to me. But algebra never did. I just memorized formulas and methods using brute force. Being an overachiever, I always made A's, but I never really understood it. So now, at 53 years old, I don't need to remember it anymore. I can always ask my husband or, if for some reason he isn't around and I have an urgent need to solve an equation with two variables, I can pay someone to do it for me. I want to forget algebra.

Forgetting algebra would free up space in my brain to remember things I don't want to forget, but I guess that's a completely different subject.


  1. Guess that would never be one I would ask to forget!!.....because....I never understood it either.....I loved all you said about all is the like you....I have made my share of mistakes...but....through them....I was learning all at the same time.....keep up the is adicting!

  2. I would want to forget it but last year when I faced (and mastered... for me) my math fears by taking the GRE course and passing the test, algerbra was a hard-earned win for me!!!

  3. The part of me that loves puzzles adored algebra once it clicked, in about the second week. From then on it was my favorite class. And now? I've forgotten pretty much all of it. I never realized that forgetting it was a blessing until I read this funny post. I wonder if that's the part of my brain I'm now using to store information related to who hooked up with whom on various seasons of "The Bachelor."