Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Thinning out the memory banks

Yesterday, I read a beautiful piece from a mother about a conversation she shared with her daughter -- about regret and moving on and finding peace. And, if I wasn't quite so forgetful, I'd paste in the link. But I can't remember which blog I read it on! Actually, I'm not even sure it was yesterday that I read it! Could have been Monday...

And that's the problem. It's not that I'm not reading lots. It's just I can't remember what I'm reading. Unlike my waistline that appears to be getting thicker with age -- or is that calories doing it? (can't remember) -- my memory is getting thinner. It appears to be acquiring air pockets, or perhaps stress fractures or just plain old fatigue.

Go figure.

I don't remember when I first noticed it, but my memory definitely doesn't seem to be as dense as it once was. Or perhaps, it's just I am more dense and it is more porous.

Where once I could go to the grocery store with a list of ten things in my head and remember every one of them, now, three items require a list and my cell phone. Because most often, I forget to even take the list and have to call home to ask someone to read it to me. Nice thing about that strategy -- people at home often remember other things we need and I do the shopping in one trip instead of multi-little voyages. Very conversational minded, I think!

Regardless though, I'm definitely entering an era of a crisis of the memorable kind.

My memory is wearing out. Or is it me?

Is that even possible? Could it happen? That memory muscles grow lax. Grow weak and non pliable? Lose their elasticity? Nah. Impossible. My body doesn't work that way...


Like I'm as strong and fit and agile as I was even just ten years ago. Was I once strong and fit and agile? Can't remember. But, I do recall once climbing mountains and skiing down vertical slopes at the speed of wind. Wait. It wasn't at the speed of wind. That's an exaggeration of past prowess and... me forgetting to be humble.

But, they say, (if only I could remember who 'they' are), "The mind is a muscle. Use it or lose it."

Well, I've been using my mind. Overtime. And I feel like I'm losing it anyway!

"What to do? What to do?" as my French aunts always ask. Twice. Do you think the repetition is necessary because they forgot they said it the first time?

Start writing everything down, the voice of reason pipes up.

Start keeping track of websites visited. Comments made. Organize your favourites so you can actually find things you've put in there...

All sorts of strategies exist to offset thinning mind spaces.

But, the thinness is kind of nice (it's the only part of me that appears to be getting thinner with age anyway!). And, with the thinning mind spaces, I'm thinking maybe, the past won't appear so dark and dense and the present will have more air to breathe -- and the future? Well, it won't appear on the horizon until I get there -- anyway, I always forget to worry/think/cogitate on the future before it happens so if it doesn't have room to grow in size in my memory, there's no time lost in the moment of now!

So maybe, it's not all bad.

maybe, this is just a reminder to slow down. Get in the moment. Get present.

Start, as Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thây) suggests in A Guide to Walking Meditation, walking consciously in the now:

"Going is important, not arriving…Each step is life; each step is peace and joy. That is why we don’t have to hurry. That is why we slow down. We seem to move forward, but we don’t go anywhere; we are not drawn by a goal."

When I slow down, memory settles into place. I become aware of where I'm at and what I'm doing, in the now, not in the yesterday or tomorrow, but right here, right now.

When I stop looking ahead and focus on where I'm stepping, I lose sight of my destination and gain the peace and joy of being present to what is happening now.

My destination is a given. One day I will leave this world.

The present is the gift. The only place I need to remember to be to live this one wild and precious life in the rapture of now -- living it up for all I'm worth, whether I remember to pick up the milk or not.

And perhaps, it is in celebrating thinning memory muscle and thickening waistlines that I truly become present to the wonder and joy of being me in this moment right now, right here. Rightly so.

Ah bliss. I don't have to remember what to do to live my best life yet. I just have to be here, right now, living it up for all I'm worth.


Anonymous said...

its the same story with all of us who are trying to juggle too many things at a time. :)

we should give our poor brains a little rest.

lots of love

Hope said...

what a wonderful post, Louise! great words of truth here.

I can really relate to your topic and I am practicing yoga and meditation to help me be aware of the present more often.

enjoy this very much

Fi said...

So true, I just laughed when I read your post because I could identify with it completely.

Anonymous said...

good one!

Brandi said...

What to say? What to say?

I always double my questions....especially when I talk to myself :)

JTS said...

I loved this post because I relate to it so well. At very nearly 57 my memory skills seem to have flown out the window. I keep lists and post notes everywhere and still I forget to read them! I expect to be totally absent-minded by 70, a basket case! :-) I do agree though that often we are just moving too fast, doing to much, taking in too much and our minds don't have proper time to process it and store it. Overwhelmed with info is a chronic state of mind for me. If I pause and make a conscious effort to log something into my memory, it usually sticks. Maybe our mental data banks are overloaded by a certain point in life. Too bad we can't clean them up with the push of a button like a hard drive! :-)
Thanks for the smiles this post brought. It's nice not to feel so alone. (Oh, and I think the post you were refering to is the one I put on my blog Monday. :-)

S. Etole said...

smiling ... in the knowing of this

Maureen said...

I noted from the pics you posted that you have a piano. Music is one of the very last things to go, and we can remember how to sing and what to sing or play even if we've forgotten everything else. So be sure to hit the keys every now and then.

There was an article in the NYT Books section a few months ago in which the writer said he could remember nothing about any of the books he'd read once he'd finished his reviews. I stopped feeling badly about not recalling somebody's name after reading that.

Memory muscle may thin but if you can recall the joy of the moment, if not the details, who cares?