Gone are the days when I would sit in a darkened theater to watch movies in order to analyze and write about them for a grade. (Those were…the days.) I loved the flicker of the projector as I was whisked into yet another story of suspense, or love, or…body snatching. Continue reading “Something That I Used to Know”
I was standing in line for the deli at my local grocery store when I thought I saw a familiar face and wondered if she was someone I knew. My mind immediately went to its tattered mental Rolodex of names and faces…and I drew a big, fat blank. But I swore I knew her in some way.
Just then she swiveled her head my way, smiled and said, “Hi!” Validation! I DO know her…but…how? “Hey! How are you?” I responded, hoping she might say something that would give me a little more context to work with. No luck.
I HATE that feeling.
I hate knowing that I should know something that I don’t.
I hate forgetting.
I am happy to report that hours later it dawned on me how I knew this young woman. My frayed Rolodex found the right page.
A minor mental victory.
I feel like my memory is challenging me more and more of late, and it’s very frustrating and disheartening. Sometimes even scary. As someone who values experiences as the biggest treasures to accumulate in life, this threatens my booty, so to speak.
I don’t want the memory pirates storming my ship and stealing my goods.
Though memory loss is a worry of mine, I hang onto a lesson I learned long ago that really made sense to me—courtesy of Marilyn Vos Savant’s Q&A column in Parade Magazine, of all places.
While I didn’t save the column, I remember it well. The questioner wanted to know what value there was to seeing a play—or reading a book or anything along those lines—if you eventually forget the content of what you saw or read. Why bother if the memory fades? Does it still have worth? Does it matter?
Vos Savant’s answer drew a parallel to having a friend in kindergarten. She said that while most adults no longer remember the specifics of that friendship—maybe not even the name of the friend—isn’t it still important? Wasn’t it of value at the time and still of value now because it helped shape us into who we grew to be?
Though we may forget, it still matters.
I used this parallel throughout my teaching years when students would ask similar questions as to the value of reading. Once you’ve been touched by something, you never see the world in exactly the same way, I would tell them.
When we pay attention and let something soak in a little, it helps to shape and shade our perspective—maybe just a teensy bit—even if we can no longer bring it to the “front” of our brains, as I like to call it.
That’s what I comfort myself with when I look at a book on my shelf and barely remember the story or know I’ve seen a movie but can only recall that Morgan Freeman was in it…My memory may be cloudy, but each experience or creative work that I “let in” leaves a mark on me, even if only slight—it still touched me.
That question to Vos Savant was posed before today’s fractured world of multi-tab pages and content coming at us from all directions, and we don’t do our memory any favors by consuming experiences in that way, in my opinion. There is little time for anything to sink into our brains with scattershot. For me, nothing beats some quiet time with a book or a darkened theater about to light up with the hoisting of the curtain. Push away the distractions and engage.
Still…even with raising the odds like that, most likely the plotline will grow dim and eventually I will just remember that I really liked (or didn’t like) the experience.
And I’m pretty sure it’s only going to get worse.
And that’ll have to be okay because there’s no way I want to live in a world where the only thing worth doing is that which I know I will never forget.
Because I won’t be doing much.
Just ask the girl in line at the deli counter.
I can rarely hold a thought these days, and I blame Al Gore. (Okay, not really, because he never really said he invented the Internet, people.) But between the pervasiveness of easily attainable information and the ability to communicate a million different ways, I have lost my mind.
The title of this post comes out of the mouth of my son. We were traveling down a street we drive on nearly every day, and he looked up from the book he was reading and wondered where we were. When I answered him with a little bit of frustrated disbelief in my tone, he answered, “Ohh…that’s right. I keep forgetting I don’t pay attention.” And it dawned on me how perfect a statement this was not only for him, but for me, too.
Not only am I pulled and tugged in numerous ways in my world, but I let technology grab on, too, and I find myself distracted throughout the day.
I know my brain has taken a hit in the retention category because when I attempt to read, research, and learn, there is a subconscious knowledge that I will be able to find it again. This is both terrific and horrible. Apparently, my little mind knows that so much is stored “off-site” that she doesn’t really have to rise to the occasion and commit to storing the info. My mind can be a little bitch sometimes. She’s smart enough to know she can be dense.
I remember how when I was a kid, if I wanted to learn about the Roman Empire, for instance, I would start with the World Book Encyclopedia we had in our house, and if I needed to know more, I would go to the library. I would read…focus…and repeat, if needed. Today, I would Google the Roman Empire, my eyes would dart and scan over several different sites, and…and. And little would stick for long.
But the old me is battling. I’m currently reading a book that is thick with great things to ponder and remember. Sitting next to me one day, my son asked me, “What are you doing? Why are you writing in that book?” and I had the pleasure—but also challenge—of helping him to understand why a person would mark up a book and make notes in it. “It helps me digest it and refer back to it more easily, Honey. It helps me to learn it.”
Sadly, though, it’s taking me a long time to get through the book because my little mind knows I mean business when I open it up, so I often find myself too tired (or whatever) to sit down and focus. That little mind of mine is sneaky.
I find that this way of thinking (or not thinking) has gone beyond affecting how I read or research, though. It affects how I listen, too. And that is unforgivable.
I need to pay better attention. The distractions that surround me are exactly that: distractions. They are diversions from something else, and too often that something else should have my full attention. And it’s hard enough to give full attention in a world where one thought leads to another and before I know it, my remembering that I need to buy milk has resulted in my thinking about how I need to get the oil changed and sign up to chaperone my son’s field trip and send three work emails and is that a squirrel in the tree?…
And here’s the final kicker to this line of thinking…I wanted to include a quote that I’ve loved for years: We are drowning in information, but starved for knowledge (John Naisbitt), and I vaguely remembered that I might have used the quote before. Turns out I wrote an entire other post at the beginning of the year on this same struggle of mine. I can’t even remember my own writing! (Sorry for the rerun topic, but since I didn’t remember my own writing, I’m going to trust that this doesn’t feel like a repeat to you, either…but still. Yeesh.)
Paying better attention is indeed an uphill battle, but I’m not raising the white flag quite yet. Are you with me? Oh, wait…someone just texted me. Can you hold that thought for a sec? I’ll be right back with you in a blink…
PS–This post was written while I had two 10yo boys playing/fighting/laughing/swordfighting/wrestling in the next room. Can you tell?