Irish Alzheimer’s: Looking For The Cure

by Bill Brenner on September 27, 2011

Alzheimer’s Disease is a terrible thing. I’ve known some precious souls trapped within that mental prison over the years, and it’s one of the saddest things to behold. But there’s another mental prison we all find ourselves in from time to time.

The late Father Dennis Nason, former pastor of my church, described it as Irish Alzheimer’s. Simply put, you forget everything but the grudges.

I’d like to tell you I don’t suffer from it, but I’d be lying.

The difference between me today vs. the me of yesterday is that I used to adore my grudges. I was faithful to them and reveled in them. Now, when I catch myself in the middle of a grudge feeding frenzy, I’m ashamed.

Grudges used to be cool to me. Zeroing in on someone else’s faults made me feel so much better about myself. In all the darker episodes of my life I’ve looked for others to blame. It doesn’t work so well for me anymore.

The ability to hold grudges goes back to the inability to stop judging other people.

We have an irresistible urge to compare ourselves to other people. If we feel like shit because of what our lives have become, we want assurances that what we have is still better than the next guy. If we come from a family of drama queens, we want assurance that some other family is ten times as bad.

In that toxic mix, we hold onto hard feelings. When the bad feelings harden into stone, you have a grudge.

I used to hold grudges against various family members for what I considered to be their wrongs against me, forgetting that I had been as bad to them at times. I forget about all the shitty things I’ve done when I focus in on my problem with other people. A good grudge helps you forget the pain over your own failures.

It’s an escape from personal responsibility.

When it becomes hard enough to look at your own reflection, you pick up that stone and throw it through the glass. Break the glass and you don’t have to see your reflection anymore.

Gather up too many of those stones and the weight becomes too much to carry. That’s where I’ve found myself in recent years. So I’ve set about throwing the stones away. The problem is that sometimes, it feels so good to clutch ’em and throw ’em.

Yesterday I wrote about being a control freak. That condition is ideal for nurturing grudges. Whenever I tried but failed to control things, there was always someone to blame. Family members. Work colleagues. Whenever I tried to make sense of a friend or family member’s untimely death, I zeroed in on people I could blame.

But the buzz of a good grudge never lasts for long, and when it dissipates I feel like I’m in more pain than I was in before.

I’m no different than a lot of people in this regard. But I look for a cure every day. I’m going to keep looking until I find it. When I do, I’ll share the secret with you.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Christa M. Miller September 27, 2011 at 5:30 am

I’m not sure it’s so clear cut as this, though, Bill. In my experience:

I can bear plenty of responsibility for my own part in something going sideways… it’s the other person refusing to do the same that drives me crazy. I know, I know. That’s hallmark control freak, and I am working on letting go and accepting the fact that sometimes… life just isn’t fair.

But that brings me to the second point: there is a fine line between bearing a grudge, and deciding you can have nothing more to do with the person because they have hurt you one too many times — or at the very least, that you are too toxic to one another to stay in contact.

Most of the people who fit that description in my life, I have forgiven and even realized that I still love them even if I can’t allow them to be around me for sanity’s sake. Some people, though, I’m still working on forgiving, and a big part of that is working on forgiving myself, overcoming that stubborn little tape recorder that tells me I don’t really deserve it.

Hardest part of that? Wishing some of those people were still around, to make it easier to forgive (me and them) thanks to unconditional love. That they aren’t requires a continuous process of forgiveness. Writing that… I see how codependent I still am, and how being on my own, having that need to continually forgive, is really a way for me to “flush” my own system of the excuses that kept me both codependent and unforgivable. Hmm.

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