On Amnesia …

… Or How Moving Is Like Childbirth

On Friday, Glenn and I – along with my strapping, college-age son – moved our logic- and physics-defyinginly heavy collection of “downsized” possessions into long-term storage.  

Like the seemingly bad plan nature had in designing a laughably narrow channel for an infant to pass through when it’s born, we decided that a 10×15 area would be more than sufficient to store the furniture and some boxes of necessities like dishes and clothes we decided we want to keep for when we eventually leave the road to settle at our haven.

Actually, there are many boxes. Like so, so many.

Seriously, in the name of all the gods, how could we possibly have so many boxes after such drastic downsizing?

What is wrong with us?

New mothers report that, over a relatively short time, they forget the pain associated with childbirth. It’s often quipped that if the memory of that profound pain were fully retained, the population of the human race would quickly dwindle to zero as women would simply refuse to repeat that experience.

I think the same can be said for moving. If we all fully retained the mental distress and bone-deep exhaustion that comes from moving, we’d remain stubbornly rooted in one place.

Yet, we know, women very often want to bear more than one child. And the vast majority of people choose to make multiple moves over their lifetimes.

What gives?

Xander and me in in “beast mode” eight hours into the move process.

This Was Plan B

Our house was virtually empty.

Having sold or donated nearly everything we decided we could do without, a walkthrough inventory of the remaining contents in each room rendered a short list: a favorite table set and a box here, an iron-and-reclaimed-wood console and two boxes there, a family heirloom hope chest and just a few more boxes over there, and … Well, you get the idea.

Not much at all.

(Except, maybe, for all those insidious boxes.)

Glenn and I have been through countless and much bigger moves over our lives. Toting our few remnant furnishings along with that small-ish collection of boxes would be the tiniest fraction of the average size of our moves over the past several decades.

We were set for the simplest, smoothest effort yet.


As a result of my ill-timed broken toe, we were forced to drastically compress our “Plan A” storage effort.

That plan was simple. We’d make a few trips per week to the storage space with a Jeepload of prioritized belongings. We’d spend some time there rearranging and then, with a critical eye, reassess our remaining storage capacity and possessions to make the hard calls about which of our belongings would stay on (or get scratched off) our “keep” list.

In the same way our modern minds over-simplify and intellectualize the process of childbirth only to be violently overwhelmed by its immediate, physical reality, our “Plan A” was transformed from an intuitive, aspirational flowchart into a grueling, bruising, and literally bloody 12-hour saga that was well more than we’d bargained for in every way.

A Reward for Our Efforts

It would be pretty difficult trying to get through life while retaining only negative memories. We humans have a biologically valuable recollection bias: we tend to retain the memory of the positive outcome, not the process.

Nature has granted us the blessed gift of amnesia.

Forgetting – or at least minimizing the memory of – the pain and trouble of many experiences with positive outcomes helps to keep us forging ahead in the face of obstacles that might otherwise render us immobilized, frozen in fear of pain or failure. Instead, we are rewarded with enduring positive memories of the results of our needful suffering – driving us to pursue more new (and some repeat) challenging experiences. Like childbirth, or moving, say.

Today’s aching muscles and joints remind Glenn and me that our bodies remain strong. We are satisfied to learn that we can still summon “beast mode” when needed. Our grit and determination in the face of exhaustion and pain were remunerated with a satisfying ability to literally close the door on our long-term storage effort – plus we received the bonus sense of satisfaction for a job done well.

We were also humbly reminded that challenges are how we know we are alive and also how we grow. While our recent move experience was a bit straining, we walked away with the knowledge that we are capable.

We learned we are up for the challenge, and that we are ready for many more.

Bring them on.

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