Memorex ‘90: Normal Bias

You hear both, so that I can too

cassette tape

“When everything is dark, when we are surrounded by despairing voices, when we do not see any exits, then we can find salvation in a remembered love, a love that is not simply a wistful recollection of a bygone past but a living force that sustains us in the present. Through memory, love transcends the limits of time and offers hope at any moment in our lives.”
-Henri Nouwen

Rewind, replay,
record, erase,
rewind, replay again.
Find the right stopping
and starting points
for these arguments echoing in my head.
What should’ve I said?
What do I wish he would’ve said?
How dare he say THAT.
Until I am devoured 
like an old cassette tape
viciously unraveling.

Somebody has to win,
I’m right, he’s wrong.
Somebody has to lose.
Those are just the rules.

In an analog jog,
these past memories become my present,
overtaking my future.
A spectral recording that starts up
at the worst possible times.
I yearn for someone to press stop.
There is no peace, there is no quiet.
Where were YOU in this?
You were there, of course,
I just didn’t notice.

I remember what was, rewinding again.
This time, looking,
listening, for You,
who quietly pulled up a chair,
filling the space between 
me and my “opponent” 
with so much 
calm and confidence and love.
Your gaze caught mine and
helped me see
something clouded, pleading
under the noise.
“Remember, you are loved,
you are seen, you are secure.”

My body softened, my mouth stopped.
You released me of my need to be right and told me,
“It’s ok,” you could take it.
You pressed pause,
and softly tried to get his attention too.
Words spun confusion
round and round,
like magnetic tape around a reel.
He, stuck on side two,
couldn’t make the switch over
to hear me on side one.

But you hear both, so that I can too.
My tortured mixtape memories
remastered with your high fidelity,
the unresolved harsh parts
disintegrating over time in the light of your Love.
Your compassion for me became my own,
for myself and for him.
Your Love released me to be
and let the other be too.

  • Janell Downing

    Janell Downing lives in Portland, OR with her husband and two boys. She holds a BS in Theology & Music from Multnomah University and is currently on her way to become a Spiritual Director. She enjoys living a life of hospitality for weary travelers of the faith with books, movies, coffee, and music always close by. You can find more of her writing at Substack and Mockingbird.

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