Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

“We met at the wrong time. That’s what I kept telling myself anyway. Maybe one day, years from now we’ll meet in a coffee shop in a far away city somewhere and we could give it another shot.” – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is indeed a reminder for us −specifically to me, of things in life we couldn’t change. The story is centered around a broken-heart couple who try to survive the breakup by erasing their memories of each other. A total spending-too-much-tissue drama, yes I agree. But what I want to discuss is not about the tragic story or the mind blowing characters played by renowned actors, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. What I was really pinched on after devouring the film was one message about resetting memories. What is it really all about?

In this movie, Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine have successfully processed the reset button. They erased the memory of one another to not feel broken anymore because of their failed relationship. They forget each other and never know what has happened between them. It was somewhat a wish for a reset button. Just like a game, getting reset whenever it’s getting messed up then starting all over again for another game. How many of you have wished for this? For an all-purpose reset button? I believe numbers or hundreds of people have whispered to themselves about this.

I find this movie sarcastic to people in relationships who often say they have moved on and forgotten their exes entirely. In fact, we can’t have full control of our memory. We can’t instantly forget someone who has been in our life except accidentally we get amnesia and literally forget everything. Oftentimes, we are in denial making sure that we already empty our mind about people in the past. Unfortunately, our brain does not work that way. Maybe, in twenty years we can forget. But in five or ten years? I’m not sure we are able to stop the nostalgic scene every time his or her name is said uninterruptedly by someone or when a song that was dedicated to him or her played unexpectedly.

As described implicitly in the movie, both characters think that erasing memories of one another is the best idea for both as they will no longer suffer the pain. But everything that comes unnatural will not end up well. Everything that is forced, will only hurt more. Just like in real life. We can never erase the memory of someone we tenderly loved. When it is time to move on, it is time to move one. The feeling may be gone and changed, but the memory will still be there until only God knows when. We can’t ever force ourselves not to think about that person. As long as it does not hurt anyone, ourselves or others, the memory is your secret belonging and you have the right to have it.

Well, but it’s a lie if I say that I never wish for a reset button. I do for lots of time. I do want a reset button now and then. Too many bitter memories in my life I wish to vanish from my amygdala. Too many unpleasant people I wish to delete from my contact list. Once, I felt overwhelmed by the painful memories. They drenched me into a pool of desperation, making me wash away the reasons to live. Some other time the voices of people I hate spun inside my head, malfunctioning my neurons. I even thought that disappearing from this world was the way to have a reset button. But no. There was no reset button and we are lucky enough not to have it.

It is life we talk about, life in this peculiar universe. Life full of scorching sun, of sinkholes after rain, of rare rainbows, and of unstable emotions. We have to always gamble when it comes to the future, unless we are clairvoyants −though they can also misdirect the vision. But whatever might show up in our face later, it is the guest we have to let in. Slamming the door and hiding inside the house will only get us to worse sorrow. And at the end, instead of a reset button what we need is more like a pause button.

At some point of my life, I encountered some big attacks in my life. I could not help myself but reward myself with a pause button. It’s impossible to leave behind the dreadful memories as a reset button would do. All I needed was a pause button: a button I pushed at the time I was ready to stop asking my life to be fair. Before touching the button, nonetheless, I had to allow the tears to drop down, the stabs to my heart, the heat in my brain. I eventually understand that fallout is a crux and I have to embrace it to welcome sooner-or-later happiness. And whenever I was ready, the pause button was there, on the surface of my heart and mind.

So what is a pause button? For me it was the time I recessed from those stressful places including clubs, bars, and other crowded spaces, from certain habits, from certain people, and from myself. You probably have already heard the phrase: you are your worst enemy. And it’s true. Me is my worst enemy. The time I hit rock bottom, I let my dark side dominate and play the role. Turns out, I treated myself bad to impulsively think it was a perfect ingredient to complete the recipe of happiness. Well, at first I didn’t recognize of course. You possibly did not too. And it’s normal.

I’m not sure if I can measure the duration from the first awful phase to the pause button phase. But I’m pretty sure the universe will reveal the healing formula in an ineffable way once you still want to open ourselves to it. And when we reach the pause button we will be grateful for never pushing the reset button. As Joel and Clementine when they finally find out that they are actually meant for each other, they are ashamed of deleting those memories as in the meantime they are forgetting one another, they are suffering more because the pieces are missing.

And I could not be thankful enough to document the bleeding memories in my head so that now I can figure out what to do with those memories as well as to take advantage of them in furthering my life. A pause button for my life works when I halt the force of thinking what coulda, shoulda, woulda, happen and start to forgive myself, the situation, the universe and certain people entered into my life. A pause button works for me when I am determined to stand still for a while, having discussion with myself of what to envisage the days after releasing the button, or what to focus on in the aftermath.

Least I can say, the pause button is the phase when we accept ourselves to be ourselves, others to be others, and the time to be the time. The pause button is a milestone with no expectation of jumping back in time to change things.