on forgetting


You forget. That’s the thing.
When you’re going through it, you think it’s something you’ll never leave behind. But once you’ve left it behind, you forget.

Then you meet someone new, and they want to know your life story. You hedge, nattering away about your now instead. You have two babies, moved here from New York. Oh? Well, what’s that like? It’s not as if you hope you’re giving them enough so they won’t pry for more, because really, you don’t even think about it. You forget. Until they ask for details, which you pass along lightly, as if they’re the days of the week.

Monday was “I was married before.”
Tuesday was “Yeah, surgeon. Med school. No, I met him before then.”
Wednesday, “Well, senior year of college. A family barbecue when I was still a vegetarian.”
Thursday, “Through email, while I was pregnant.”
Friday, “No, no. I had an abortion.”
Saturday, “Because of Norman and City Slickers, really.”
Sunday, we rest and recharge, maybe remembering all the things we thought we’d never need to remind ourselves to remember. We remember the heavy moments that we now chatter about as if they never mattered. And one day, it’s how we’ll feel about now.



  1. Hmmm, so it's kind of like reliving an old identity that feels a bit off, a bit foreign like lime green with pink sling-backs that used to feel sooooo riiiight…(penny loafers used to feel that way too. Go figure).

    Like…having discarded said shoes/identity…someone comes and obliges you to have a flashback.

    Enough to give anyone belated PTSD. Or something.

    I think I get it.

  2. Terrific post. It's both comforting and stressful that the the truth of this – the reassurance that you will forget – is almost impossible to convince yourself and others of. I keep a journal because I don't want the same thing to happen to the good parts as well.

    The other day I caught myself casually uttering "we were together for 10 years." Just like that, all captured in a few words with no real emotion attached anymore. Time works, but my god it's slow.

  3. I have to say, considering the things going on in my personal life right now, I'm looking forward to looking back with a different perspective.

  4. "We remember the heavy moments that we now chatter about as if they never mattered, and one day it's how we'll feel about now."
    Wow! that statement really got to me. My 'now' is so important that I would hope in the future, it never gets trivialized. Is it getting any cooler in Austin?

  5. Yeah, I forgot it too. I wish I hadn't forgotten that it could all happen again some day. On the other hand, who wants to be reminded of the mess you left when things are going well?

  6. Truer words were never written.

    I think we need to forget, just a little bit. Forgetting is a powerful thing.

  7. I have been reading your blog faithfully for the past few years. I won't be reading it any longer. I endured my fiancee's illness, and can't fathom posting tidbits online about my engagement ring during that awful time. I guess I didn't realize how shallow you really are. No matter how much time passes, I could never "chatter" about what we went through.

  8. I think watching the twins be born and grow by way of your blog has actually made me think MORE about the abortion….as in, how old would the other baby be now? was it a boy or a girl? are lucas and abigail going to know?
    its like the past but then again the twins are a new reference point to it having happened…..makes me sad too……

  9. Unless it's a professional asking the questions I'd just say something like "my life really started when I met Phil and I don't want to bring up the past." If they get pushy about it, tell them to buy your book.

  10. Rachel.
    I'm sorry for what you've gone thru in the past.
    I hope one day you learn that everyone copes with stress in their own way. We all need to mourn or worry or rejoice in our own way. The sooner you come to terms with this, the easier your life will become.

  11. I love your blog and having been reading for about a year now. I don't usually read the comments, but I read them today a little and I also read one last week. I am struck by the things some people say. Like, just because you posted things about your engagement ring while your husband is sick makes you less of a concerned, loving, caring wife and therefore must be "punished" by losing a faithful reader. I guess that means we as people can only have one track minds and, God forbid, we try to pull ourselves out of the mud and mire of life occasionally and think about something trivial and stupid to some. That by being momentarily sidetracked you are somehow shallow. I guess those readers expect you to have a catastrophic meltdown instead of releasing the burden for a moment, just a frigging moment to return to "normalcy" for your and everyone else's benefit.
    I'll step off my soapbox now. You're not shallow or unloving.

  12. There are a lot of things in my life that I wish I could forget. Things that I don't share when I meet new people.


    I also think it's insane that people are judging how you deal with your life. Some people deal with things by NOT dwelling on them 24/7. I know in dealing with tragedy sometimes I need to go buy a celebrity rag, er…magazine. Something completely trivial to get my mind OFF of the bad things in life. I don't think I could handle people judging me for it.

  13. Jennifer–I'm not sure Lucas and Abigail would even exist if Stephanie had not had the abortion. Her life would probably have turned out totally different, so who knows? (just my $.02)

  14. If people carried the emotional weight of everything they've experienced, nobody could walk upright.

    My beloved aunt died in '86. I can say it today, at this moment, as a fact. Last week, with my cousin's daughter's bat mitzvah approaching, I cried about her loss as if we'd all just gone through it.

    I had a miscarriage in '99. At this moment, I'm not emotionally attached to it. Another day, different circumstances, it can bring me to my knees.

    Thank G-d we don't feel every pain to our core as we recall it. Who can carry that amount of pain and still know joy?

  15. to Kathy from NJ… "my life really started when I met Phil"??? Are you serious? This is a woman who fought so hard to come into her own, and even goes back to "visit" the single woman she used to be in her guest room every so often. As someone who found their own happily ever after, through the years of reading this blog and empathizing with Stephanie as she found hers, I have to say if I actually heard those words come out of her mouth I would be wholeheartedly disappointed. It's one thing to put the past behind you, but lord… I guess that's the strange thing about putting yourself out there like Stephanie has, her past isn't only meaningful to her, I think it's meaningful to so many of her readers as well.

  16. Oh so true. I look back at my life 5 years ago and the pain associated with it and can't believe that I am here today in one piece. Don't get me wrong, the tears still come when I think about my mom and all of the moments I want to share with her. It just doesn't feel like a knife in my heart.

  17. City Slickers… lol. Glad that made the list. A life condensed into those text bites is pretty funny. Actually it's healthy to laugh at life, especially your own cringe worthy moments, and not so healthy to judge others. Just my 2 cents on post & comments…

  18. Very true.
    Have you noticed how fast time passes after you have kids? Is it just me? Time seems to be flying by so much faster.

    PeeAss- I started the book this morning. Im on the American Pie chapter now. So far I like it a lot. Though for some reason I was thinking Lea would be in it more. Your blogs about her are so rare but they always make me laugh.

  19. Somehow I don't see myself ever being so casual about my past.

    "Yeah, I was married before"

    "He was in sales"

    "We met at my first job after grad school."

    "Oh, he died a slow and painful death from pancreatic cancer."

    "The kids were 3 and 18 months at the time."

  20. Kathy In NJ- A HUGE ditto to Beth. Stephanie's life didn't "start" when she met Phil- she wouldn't be the person she is today without her past. None of us would be who we are without that. I had a crappy 5.5 yr relationship before I met my wonderful husband, but I wouldn't dream of thinking, let alone saying, that my life didn't begin until I met him. I enjoy sharing my stories of the twists and turns my life took to get to where I am now. It's colorful as hell, a little painful, joyous, strange, and tons of other things. It's great!

    I was faced with a similiar situation to this particular blog this past weekend as I filled my husband in on some extra back-story on my high school ex before coming face to face with him for the first time in about 10 yrs at a bbq. As stories/events quickly tumbled off my tongue, I couldn't believe how much I was remembering that had long been forgotten.

  21. So well written, DamWrite. And Gail, your 'look but don't stare' was funny.

    Beth, what I think Kathy in NJ meant to do was to create a pat answer to intercept further undesired inquiries from strangers. Of course SK's life didn't 'start' when she met Phil. I think this is just a way to breezily broach the subject and not divulge personal info to strangers. I think it's actually a clever retort and would work. I have no problems with telling people if something is not their business; I'm blunt to a fault.

  22. Sandi — I'm sorry, and in some "7 degrees of separation" way I really wish I knew you personally… Very impactful.

  23. I loved this. It is really humbling to remember that what seems so earth-shattering and devasting this month, may not even be on our radars next month, let alone years from now. It just puts all that anxiety, worrying, and fixating into perspective.

  24. This post makes me think about what my answer would be to my life summarized into 6 words…
    (http://www.newyorker.com/talk/2008/02/25/080225ta_talk_widdicombe) like in “Not Quite What I Was Planning.” I wouldn't know what to highlight on, or what I feel has shaped me more than something else. I want to come up with one so that telling my story (over and over, especially when dating) gets a bit easier.
    I'm curious to know what your answer would be!
    The first one that came to mind for me is
    "Fate, turn around, you missed me"
    "Constantly improving my relationship with Karma"
    "Picked up hurting heart, moved on"
    or maybe even,
    "Great in bed, can't find equal"

    Having a summary makes a great impact, and allows for truth without having to go into great detail (something you're great at, but I lack at times).
    I can't wait to hear the answers from the women that really inspire me (and from the men that I've been meeting- those should be pretty entertaining to read)!

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