Sometimes I like to assign movies for my clients to watch. One of them is Finding Dory. The little fish character voiced by Ellen DeGeneres has short term memory loss and much of the humor comes from her forgetting who the other characters are.
She might have a long scene with a character and see the same character two minutes later and have no idea who she’s talking to. Then cheerfully she says, “Oh hello! My name is Dory!” How exciting to find a new relationship! And for Dory, they’re all showing up as new.
What if I can try being Dory? When I arrive at a gathering and I see someone there who I have had judgmental thoughts about, this time I approach them as Dory. I am happy and cheerful. I am open and empty and so glad to run into them. There is no story about them that I have to filter their words through.
When I show up empty, I am right here right now in the present moment. Like falling out of thought and like falling in love. Because only in the here and now can I fall in love, because falling in love is an experience of pleasant surprise, or, as G.K. Chesterton said about his spiritual awakening, it’s like receiving “absurd good news.”
And I can fall in love with anything. I recently learned to fall in love with taking the garbage out. I noticed that I dreaded it every week, and when it came time to do it I slogged through it as a means to an end. It never occurred to me that I could make it an end in itself.
So I slowed it down and treated it like a sacred Zen practice. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t wait until garbage day. I’d even say to Kathy in a voice that sounded like elation, “Tomorrow’s a big day.”
“Oh really? Why?”
“Tomorrow is garbage day!”
Stories (elaborate webs of thought) make it hard for me to give something (like taking the garbage out) or someone (who had said something critical) a second chance. Someone criticizes me and I’m caught up into thinking they’ve done something deliberately hurtful. I try my best to forgive them, but built into the idea of forgiveness is the conviction that I am the person who was right and they are the person who was wrong. When I forgive them it feels like it’s big of me to do that! And that from now on they’ll never be on the same moral or ethical level as I am. It is from a superior level that I throw my pennies of forgiveness down to them. A magnificent being generously tossing coins into a human gene pool of inferiority.
Dory would be kinder than that. Dory wouldn’t remember what that other person had done or said.
In my experience of recovery from alcohol and drugs I have noticed that some people (who knew me when) never quite trusted or understood that my whole life had changed. I was “that drunk” to them every time they saw me, no matter that decades of sobriety had passed. I have friends and acquaintances in recovery who are never given a second chance by certain family members because the old stories are stronger than their capacity to forget.
I don’t actually regret any of that. It shows me the power of a story. It shows me that stories can prevent a relationship from ever really happening. They can become stories about what men are like. They can be stories about what women really want. These kinds of stories can hypnotize almost everyone alive today.
When I have a story about your political party, or your country, or your profession, who you really are doesn’t stand a chance. Whole countries have stories about other countries and will fight to the death to live out the story.
My clients enjoy Finding Dory. They see the love behind giving someone a new start. Maybe the saying “Forgive and forget” can be shortened, in the interest of time management, to simply “Forget.” If you did that it would give the people in your world a fresh chance.