Moments that surprise us, that take us off guard, are almost impossible to remember.
Maybe it is that we don't really try to remember less surprising moments. Maybe it's that our brain can't move quickly enough to create a reference point for all of the disarmingly new information that comes with surprise.
Sometimes we want to remember and we forget. Other times we don't want to forget and can't remember. And in yet another separate category are the things we cannot wish to remember or forget. They mar our thinking with in a way that is unsettling or painful but that is changing and significant. They are the things that are. Let me explain.
Yesterday, I went for a run with a friend in the early hours of the morning. We ran on a public trail, a nice flat rails-to-trails project that winds through Durham neighborhoods. No traffic, few people, lots of quiet.
On our return route, there was some distinct rustling in the brush. My running partner was being very observant, looking back multiple times to check out the noise. His attention gave me permission not to worry about it. In retrospect, this was not a very wise decision.
Suddenly, my running partner shoved me. Hard. I don't really like to be startled, so I screamed. By the time I realized there was an enraged pit bull charging us from behind, my running partner was facing off with the dog.
I don't remember how long it took for the dog to go away. I don't remember where the dog went. I don't remember. I do remember how fast my heart was beating and that the last mile of our run was much quicker than the previous. I remember feeling thankful that I wasn't alone and that my running partner had the somewhat random knowledge of how to get a dog to back down.
I don't necessarily want to remember the dog charging us or snarling at us, but I don't want to forget it either. There is value in knowing the fear of gnashing teeth. There is value in knowing my life and limbs are not my own. There is value in feeling reliant on the knowledge, strength, or protection of another.
To forget the snarling scary dog is to forget the lessons he taught me. I don't want to remember him, but I don't want to forget him either. He is a memory that is.