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A Good Life?

Today is my 46th birthday.

There is a quote on a wall at my mom’s house that says,

It’s not the hurts we get that spoil the memories, it’s the ones we give.

This framed piece of needlepoint work has been on her wall since I was in my teens, in at least four homes. It’s a quote I’ve remembered verbatim even though I’ve never really given it any direct thought. I never consciously memorized it, and I don’t remember ever truly “taking it to heart” as a mantra to live by. It’s just a random bric-a-brac hanging on the wall with no special place or memory [for me] attached to it. But I remember it, for some probably subconscious reason.

I don’t know where the quote originated — who said it, where, or when. And I don’t really care to know. I won’t look it up on the Web. It doesn’t matter. That it’s something I remember from my home, from my mom’s wall, is enough.

Now, here at my birthday, it has come to my mind. Thinking back on my 46 years, it has at last struck me just how correct that quote is. You know, thinking about it right now, doing the math in my head, I think my mom was about the age I am now when she originally stitched, framed, and hung that quote. Interesting.

I can think back to many good memories in my life. Good times, good friends. Times and friends and feelings that I miss very much. Situations that, if I were able to go back in time to live through them again, I’d want to just sit there and bask in the feelings again, to appreciate the moment more than I did at the time.

I can also remember some bad times in my life. But although I can remember the feelings, the hurt, the sadness, the depression of those bad times, the memories don’t pain me anymore. For instance, I remember the era of my parent’s divorce. I remember the terrible sadness and depression I felt then, but that sadness is only a memory — it doesn’t still hurt. I remember the break up of my first boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. I remember the heartbreak, the feeling of that hole in my chest. But it doesn’t still hurt me — it’s not a painful memory. In fact, the memories of the relationship make me happy, and they make me smile. (Oh, young love.) I’d probably feel the same about my parent’s marriage years, but I was so young, (5-6 at the divorce), that I just don’t remember anything more than snippets of anything of that time.

But there are memories that do bother me. Memories that I spoiled by giving hurt in some way. I can at least honestly say that I don’t think I ever gave a hurt by intention. I never willfully set out to hurt anyone. But knowing I lacked intention doesn’t really help salve the self-inflicted wounds to my soul. I remember saying things to my mom when I was young that still sting my mind today. I remember breaking a heart, and that casts a shadow for me over the whole relationship.

Hurts happen because of stupidity. Or inexperience. Or fear. Or insecurity. Or because one has to choose between bad options. However they happen, the hurts I gave are what still ache in my conscience, even long after the incident. Sometimes it’s hard to think back to good times that include a moment of my own dickishness. As the quote above says, the hurts one give are what spoil otherwise good memories.

I’ve also heard another quote that’s related to the above: The hardest person to forgive is one’s self. I think I’ve forgiven everyone who’s ever hurt me, either by conscious decision or just by forgetting over time. I really hope anyone I’ve ever hurt has forgiven me. Or at least I hope any hurt I’ve given hasn’t ruined any memories of good times.


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