You’ve Got to Know When To Hold ‘Em; Know When To Fold ‘Em

7 playing cards

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My weekly newspaper column for your reading pleasure (I hope):


“You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all…Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing.” ~ Luis Buñuel


            Memory is precious but unreliable. And while I think Bunuel has a valid point in saying that “Life without memory is no life at all”, I believe that sometimes it is those things that we forget that help us live coherently, with reason, feeling, and the ability to take action.

            We are inundated with many images on television, in newspapers, magazines, and on the internet that are not

so this is christmas

so this is christmas (Photo credit: mumucs)

necessarily things we want to bank in our memories. A favourite Christmas song of mine, “So This is Christmas” by John Lennon has been forever altered for me as it is being used in an advertisement accompanied by images of children in great and desperate need. Though the words do lend themselves to the message, the message is one of despair. I know that it is supposed to make me want to send money to help, but instead every time I hear the opening notes, I turn the channel. I am not heartless—I have “adopted” kids from other nations that need help and I give a monthly donation to the Red Cross, but I do not need to be reminded to be “good” in a way that makes me feel “bad”.

            One of the definitions of forgetting is to “put behind you”. And I think that having this ability is a very useful tool to deal with life when it gets just that little bit too demanding. We can only take on so much, then our cup overfloweth, and we become overwhelmed.

I was given a piece of paper with these words at the top: “Drying Out the Responsibility Sponge”. The person who gave it to me was not sure of its origins, but she remembered that I had said that I am like a sponge, taking in the things that go on around me detrimentally—as if the problems of the world were my problems when in actuality I was not dealing with those things that were within my power because I was waterlogged with the enormity of situations out of my control.

            A Google search revealed that the words are from “The Woman’s Book of Courage: Meditations for Empowerment and Peace of Mind” by Sue Patton Thoele. They target women, but I do not think that women are the only ones who take on mantles of responsibility that are too heavy. The ending of the essay says it all: “We need to be patient and gentle with ourselves as we dry our sponges (of responsibility), for the belief that we are responsible for everything is woven deeply into the fabric of our lives.” We need to put behind us all those things that are separating us from living a life with worthwhile memories.

            The cold factual definition of memory is simple—according to the Encarta Dictionary it is “the ability of the mind or of a person or organism to retain learned information and knowledge of past events and experiences and to retrieve that information and knowledge.” To me the kernel of knowledge that should be taken from this definition is that we should learn from our memories and use that data to forge forward and not dive into the depths of despair from past indiscretions, grief, revenge, and heartache.

            Many of us (me) suffer gladly from revisionist history—we remember the good things, and try to put the other stuff behind us. I believe we should learn from our errors and failures, feel our grief, seek fair retribution, but then “just let it go”.  (Believe me, I know how hard that is).

            The simple statement that “life is not fair” is true sometimes, but admit it, sometimes life is fair. And those are the times we should grasp and hold onto with all our strength.

            Session is over—okay Kenny take over—“You got to know when to hold ‘em; know when to fold ‘em; know when to walk away; know when to run…”

P.S. I had my husband read this and he said it was very thoughtful, so if you don’t like it you can blame him, but remember he has to eat the food I prepare so I think he measures his words.

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

23 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I think it is very well said and covers a few issues…. I must agree that using the song ‘Well this is Christmas’ does make one sad….I too am so aware of the poverty throughout the world and while I too try to do something…like sponsor 2 children and make extra donations when I can… I am reminded of the founder of the NGO I used to work for… ‘Just because I can’t do everything, it doesn’t mean I can’t do something”…. and that is what I do… But in our society I enjoy Christmas and all that entails and so I want to feel joy and certainly cannot feel guilt because I can! As far as the other aspect of memory I won’t say much except I would hope we learn from not so pleasant memories…and move on….Diane

    • your NGO was wise–in effect she or he was saying–never give up
      I too hope to learn from the unpleasant memories then move on from them

  2. There is a freedom to letting things go. It’s difficult but worth it. Do you remember the song, “Everybody’s Free.” There is a line in it:

    “Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

    I think that’s what most of us do when we remember…we pass along the good stuff.

    Great post, Lou.

    • there is a freedom to letting things go for ourselves–who needs recycled troubles?

      I am trying my best to take my own advice–ha ha

  3. If I could help the world I would. But – I can’t. So- I do what I can when I can. I too change the channel when that comes up or any save the people, pets commercial plays.

    LOL on your hubby’s response. 🙂

    • that is all we can do–and we should not have to feel bad if we can’t do everything–my new motto–just do something

      my husband has to be careful–he has learned this the hard way!

  4. Always wise and thought provoking Lou.

  5. I like this article a lot my friend 😀
    Just because we can’t change the world 100% does not mean we should not try! But in a way that we feel like we are actually helping because we want to, not because someone made us feel bad!


  6. I think one of the greatest things about our cognitive abilities is also often our downfall. The ability to remember in such detail can also mean we can’t let go. I’ve come to the conclusion that living in the past isn’t living. It’s standing still.

    Wonderful post.

    • I like your conclusion and am going to embrace it–simple but effective!

  7. Brilliant post! I love the sponge idea. It’s what my husband says of me without the sponge analogy. Why is it that we soak up all the worries of the world? I think because we care so much and want to make the world a better place – and who can blame us for trying? 🙂

    • that is what it is all about–trying to make the world a little bit better

  8. Enjoyed reading this. It’s hard to know when to hold ’em and when to let go sometimes. And other times we just know. I’ve been with so many people lately who think the world’s going to hell in a handbasket. Don’t know why I always hang on to the hope that it’s all going to turn out all right in the end. (Or maybe in just this one moment if we can forget about our worries and responsibilities.) Maybe happy-ever-after can only be seen in the now?

    • I think your last statement is very true and probably why the advice of the times seems to be carpe diem

  9. It’s amazing what our memories can do for us and how it can really make or break things, depending on what we let it do. I have a bad habit of dwelling on the minute bad things and temporarily forgetting the bigger abundance of good things so it’s always nice to have a reminder like this. Great post!

    • Like you I have to be reminded and much of what I write is sort of therapy for myself

  10. Your husband obviously knows how to choose his words carefully, but I don’t have to eat your food, and I think you make a lot of sense. 🙂
    I’ve started a new blog. Here’s the link

    • why thank you, I appreciate that and I am now a follower of your new blog too

  11. I really liked this – thanks for posting. Going to keep that bit about the sponge of responsibilty among some of my other favourite wise words.

    • it is worth remembering — we all take on more than we are supposed to handle–I have to remember to take care of the things that I can and let the other stuff go

    • we have to stop being sponges and be something more active–like one of those new white cleaners that clean everything and scare me because they do

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: