brain bleach… a search for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.

Most people who know me know that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of my favorite films of, like, well, ever. The film is awesome in more ways than this post is meant to explore, but the idea that humans might endeavor to “spot clean” our memories in order to eliminate pain and suffering holds a lot of appeal, a lot of the time. Of course there is the more mature (or something) view that it is the precise point of our mental discomfort to force us to deal with it and grow from it and blah, blah, blah…. And the movie as much as admits that it is truly impossible to spot remove something that you have experienced because once experienced, it becomes a part of you, changing you irrespective of the effort to pretend it never happened. Our experiences become us; both integrating as part of us and frankly, suiting us in ways we may or may not be ready to deal with.

Still, there are moments in which I wallow when I simply wish I could stop thinking about something… to the point that I do wish it never happened despite my best efforts at maturity (seriously) or some sort of accepting detachment. I long for my own brand of brain bleach for spot removal. Said something simply awful to someone? Just a touch of my magic product right here and you won’t have to torment yourself with reliving that forever as some medieval form of guilt therapy. Demonstrated some amazingly bad judgment in behavior? In public you say? No problem. Bleach that shit right out, and move along… no one really cares but you anyhow (we hope.) Heart broken by someone’s bullshit and your pitiful expectations? Just like Joel and Clementine? Here you go, douse yourself in brain bleach and move along.

Ah, but the residuals. For Joel and Clem as well as you (me?) Regardless of the method of brain bleaching (hypnosis? booze? indulgence? abstention?) nothing is every quite the same. I mean, as you know, if you have ever bleached your laundry or hair – on purpose or otherwise – It might look like you got that spot, but the fabric is forever changed. And the more you bleach it, the shittier it gets.

I think there are infinite interpretations as to what this might mean: ignorance is bliss, a clean conscience, unfettered and uncluttered acuity, hyper-presence… but they are just variations on a theme. I guess religious folks would call it enlightenment or something, but it is a quiet mind. Calming the chitta vritti – the monkey mind. Like turning off the lights after a really long day… but without the mental exercise of reminding yourself what you did not do and what remains to be done. Just, lights off. But, as in the film, what the less enlightened of us want is to just not think about shit that bums us out anymore.

That is my take away (one of them) from Eternal Sunshine of the spotless Mind. And I think it is important as a life lesson, and fodder for general contemplation. So important in fact I rather prophetically told someone they simply had to watch this film not too long ago, and in an ironic (not so) twist, they have become the abject object of my desire for brain bleach.

Why is this so goddammed hard?

A surgical procedure as in the film sure seems nice compared to the day in and day out work you have to put to it otherwise. And shit, there is so much advice as to how to achieve it: meditate, think more, think less, do yoga, fast, eat, run, be vegan, pray, sleep more, sleep less, talk about it, don’t talk about it, tune in, tune out… Get black out drunk…

I wanted to eradicate some recent experiences from my conscience just for the inner peace I accused the situations of stealing. As I said, I do understand that in truth eliminating experiences would not be ideal but whatever. I still tried a lot of strategies. Many mentioned above. Nothing worked. (In fact some strategies, as suggested simply created more memories to eradicate. Aiyah.) Every fix was temporary.

About the situation I wanted to delete… I kept thinking an apology would make it better. Some sort of explanation would make things right. I cannot say that either of those would have done the job, but really, could they have hurt? [Quien sabe.] I kept wondering, had this someone else managed to find an effective brain bleaching solution? I will never know… Though I think I want to.

Self-helpers say, remember, it’s not you it’s them… Uh, okay. Not so helpful.

Mom says to remember that the path you are not on is just as likely to be complicated with fuck ups as the one you are on, so don’t play some silly head game where you imagine had things gone down a different way they would be ideal. And then she has so many examples I end up feeling like a true success story… This actually is helpful, so thanks mom.

R says it’s my fault. I let things go and grow knowing that I am dealing with someone who cannot deal with me. He is probably right. He is usually right. And as the things I’ve been doing to clear my brain are not helping, I might as well listen to him.

“But, but, but…” I said. “No,” R said. “And remember a lot of these people have complexities we just do not desire.”

“But I was honest,” I said.
“Doesn’t matter,” R said.
“But he said…” I said.
“Doesn’t matter,” R said.
“But he told me to wait for him,” I said.
“He didn’t mean it,” R said. “I don’t know why guys say stuff like that. Maybe they mean it when they say it, but he didn’t make the changes he said he wanted to make for you, so he doesn’t want to make them.”

“But, but, but…” I said.
“No,” R said.


Lately, my mind feels a little clearer…. so since none of my other go-to strategies were working, I guess I have to admit R is right. That is so annoying.

Still, there seems to be a little more sunshine in my spotted mind… And today, in order to not think about things that bum me out, I bought more airline tickets and I’m listening to ELO. So there is that.

One thought on “brain bleach… a search for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

  1. Pingback: I believe in the good things coming. | Really?? Yes. Really.

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