Monday, August 1, 2011

Memory


Memory

Some years back, when the economy allowed me to be a decorator more than a writer, I was busy installing a new sitting room for clients when I happened to overhear the husband speaking to a guest about me in the other room. Naturally, I motioned to my assistant to be quiet so I could hear what was being said.
She remembers everything. In detail. Even colours. I swear, she’s like Rain Man.”

Hummm. Rain Man? A compliment? I wasn’t exactly certain, and the stifled laughter that emanated from the vacinity of my assistant didn’t make me feel any better. But I have to admit that I do have a pretty good memory. I like to think that’s a good thing.

I recently finished reading a book that made me even more appreciative of both memory and the intricacies of human thought. Turn of Mind, a first novel by writer Alice LaPlante is a captivating read. Written in the first person, it tells the story of a brilliant surgeon who is in the throes of Alzheimer’s disease. When the story opens her neighbour and best friend has been murdered. She is the prime suspect in the crime, but cannot even remember her friend is dead, much less the facts surrounding the event. Some days she is startlingly lucid, some days find her incapable of grasping even the basics of everyday life.

Reading this has made me think a lot this week about memory. As someone who relies on her memory as much as I do, the mere notion of losing even a part of it is chilling. Many articles are written today about the importance of protecting one’s memory. Everything from sleep to stress control, crossword puzzles to exercise is recommended. Now I love a good crossword puzzle as much as anyone, but I’d like to add another helpful hint if I could.
Simply pay attention.
Slow down.
Notice.
Remember.
When the breeze blows in from off the sea and finds you, stop for a moment to think about the way it feels as it brushes your cheek. Remember the salty fragrance of nature’s perfume. Let your eyes gaze out over and into the blue of the water till you can see that colour behind closed eyes in your sleep.
After all, none of us can remember what we don’t notice in the first place.

Back in those busy decorating days of mine, I had a painter who worked for me and who frequently brought his ten year old daughter with him to the job site. Candace was a delightful child, with a rural Southern accent that she wielded with what could only be described as a rapid-fire drawl. One day, during a break in my work, I sat with her as she regaled me with her many tales of schoolgirl woe. Chief of these was her extreme consternation over her inability to, as she put it, “fergit” what she was learning.
“I mean for goodness sake I know the year when Haydn met Mozart! 1784! I know when the Magna Carta was put out! 1215! I don’t have nothing to do with all that!
Why can’t I Fergit It??!!

As I sat there, equally stunned and entertained by her tirade, I gently tried to tell her that the point was not to forget. Memory is precious, I told her. Like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, it magically expands to hold a multitude of wondrous treasures. But we need to be careful for we cannot always control what we place inside it. Therefore it is important to concentrate on beauty and goodness as much as we can. This helps make a happy life.

Of course she looked at me like I was crazy.
But I can only hope she’s come around to that way of thinking by now.


Watercolour above by Lincoln Seligman

33 comments:

  1. This spoke to me - how I needed the reminder.

    Happy summer to you!

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  2. Wonderful post..I wil never Fergit it..wishing you a great weekend..!

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  3. Granddaughter Jasmin and I have just read your wonderful post together - out loud - and discussed it. She being a 14 y.o., and me a late 60ish lady, we both found it enlightening and enchanting and we shared your thoughts on, not only memory, but the importance of different ages being able to discuss life. We do this a lot - something I enjoy very much.

    J and I are off to California tomorrow - can hardly wait to be somewhere cooler - 106 here today!

    Hugs to you and Edward.

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  4. "After all, none of us can remember what we don’t notice in the first place." Brilliant, Pamela! My nugget for meditation today. I hope Edward is now less intent on the fireplace and that you are keeping cool by the dock...

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  5. Oh dearest, I know. I have a memory that I am serious....I remember ONE MOMENT when I was 6 months old. It is the ONLY memory of my maternal grandfather. I even have a photograph of that moment. I was on the floor as a baby, he was sitting on the couch with a young cousin of mine, he was wearing boots with wool liners. I was crying because I wanted him to pick me up. He yelled out in Spanish, "SHUT UP!" I was crushed. Emotional attachment to a moment helps us remember things and I would add to your wonderful list of PAYING ATTENTION and OBSERVING.....write it down in detail.

    THANK YOU FOR COMING TO VISIT ME...I am so enjoying your posts. Anita

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  6. Something we all know but seem to forget.To stop and smell the flowes and listen.As always a lovely post.A hug for Edward.xx

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  7. Memory is such a precious thing, and loosing it is my biggest fear. My great-aunt was a nun who was the twin to my grandmother, and she donated her brain and her time to the "nun" study for Alzheimers. Nun's are studied over many years and then when they pass on to the next life their brains are studied to see if they had any signs of the disease. Very interesting and curageous.

    Sorry to drone, I have many friends in the decorating field and they say the same thing that you do about the economy. But maybe there is a silver lining, you have some free time to spend on your writing and enjoying life and your writing brings so much joy to your blog followers. I am looking forward to your published work.

    Thank you for visiting my blog! You are so sweet.

    Have a wonderful weekend, Elizabeth

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  8. A beautiful reminder of what is important in life. Have a wonderful weekend.

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  9. Edward , being a PON , can of course teach humans all ther is to know about memory . After all a PON never forgets - particularly if there is food involved .

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  10. Like you Pamela...I have a good memory and I am so grateful for that...I love your book recommendations and have read most of them so now I have another to order....thank you, xv.

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  11. Dementia runs in my family, and in the past few years we have been observing my father's gradual decline. Every time I grasp for a memory I wonder and worry if that will be my fate, too. Your post reminds me, though, that I can/should be observing everything more carefully. I have never had the sort of visual memory that you describe . . . but your advice about concentrating on beauty and goodness makes so much sense to me. I wonder if Candace remembers this advice?

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  12. Yes Pamela, memory is so very important. My poor old Prof's is fading rapidly. After going through a particularly painful time in my life I deliberately did my best to erase the most painful memories. Unfortunately a great number of others joined the emigrating stream. Now there are many memories that I would like to recall, which have been deleted as well. The mind is a really dangerous minefield, not a toy.

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  13. I'm afraid that my memory has reached the point that is resembles Kelly Bundy's, every time I learn something new I need to forget something else, and I get no say in what is jettisoned.

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  14. Hello:
    Memory, as you say, is a precious commodity and something which to possess is one of life's blessings.

    Some years ago we met the novelist, Iris Murdoch, a woman of great intelligence and, as you will know, a very gifted writer who, at the time of our knowing her, was descending into that unimaginable blackness from which, of course, she never recovered. It was all so very sad.

    But, in the main, we find that our memories tend to blank out bad happenings over time and dwell, happily, on the good ones.

    We have discovered your interesting and very varied blog via Sue at 'View from Great Island'. We shall look forward to future posts.

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  15. I am an "exercising the mind" fanatic Pamela. Every morning over breakfast I do the times crossword, the code word, the sudoky and the numeric quiz. That starts off my day on the right note.

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  16. Memory, a treasure trove indeed...as long as we have it.

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  17. What a lovely piece on memory written by you. Slowing down this past week enabled me to stop and notice things differently than usual. And I do think I will remember them better because my focus was stronger as I slowed down. We are always rushing, multitasking, and looking at too many screens -- computer, television, phones, that it is easy to forget. I play bridge now and hope this is one of those things that will keep my brain a little sharper and my memory as good as it can be!

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  18. Got to get that book, it's my kind of reading.. Crazy Summer, get back to talk later.. yvonne

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  19. Your thoughtful post made me think of two things-
    My art tutor, who was Scottish, used to say "if ye canna see ya canna draw". meaning not only is looking important, you actually have to register what you see.
    The other thing, more bizarrely is a bathroom sign painted by Mabel Lucy Attwell which began, "please remember, don't forget, never leave the bathroom wet!"
    Visual information keeps well in my brain but sadly names get shredded.

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  20. 'After all, none of us can remember what we don’t notice in the first place.This is going to be my new mantra! Lovely post.

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  21. Pay attention, Notice .... Remember. Good advice.

    "Concentrate on beauty and goodness as much as we can" ~ Oh Yes! Fill our hearts up with good things to remember!

    Thank you for the reminders,
    Violet

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  22. ~~~ lovely

    and i LOVE the picture of you and Edward in Spring...adorable

    sending love,
    kary and teddy
    xx

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  23. "...none of us can remember what we don’t notice in the first place", how very true. I struggle to remember names, especially when I have several classes to teach. But I always remember where the chocolate is!
    But it is very true about observation, that it can be trained. I read of a Parisian teacher who made his students look at the model for 10 minutes BUT not draw, then have to run upstairs to the studio and put down everything they could remember. But shortening their allowed observation time every day he improved their skills.

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  24. When our daughters were married, ten short months apart from each other, I made myself a promise that no matter the hustle and bustle of two big weddings in such close proximity, when each day came, I would settle back and savor each moment, remember each day. Somehow, I did it and considered it a gift to myself.

    Another lovely, lovely post.

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  25. A very interesting post.

    You give such sage advice and this is a good reminder for me.

    Thank you. I am now a follower and look forward to reading your future posts.
    Helenxx

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  26. I have always had the most fickle memory...in the intellectual sense, but my body-memory is magnificent. A touch, smell, taste, tingle, song can recreate an entire experience for me in a heartbeat. I may not be able to recall the day it happened, or the where...but I can re-experience it down to the last fragment!

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  27. Dear Pamela,
    Our memory is indeed a gift and we must be grateful for it as, we hold all of our precious memories there.
    I really do try to take in every detail of events nowadays as they are what life is all about and we must squeeze every beautiful drop out of them, so that we can put them in our memory box and take them out later to re-live them.
    Thanks for another wonderful post and, as usual, so beautifully written. XXXX

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  28. Hai Dear

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    http://yummytummy-aarthi.blogspot.com/2011/07/homemade-bounty-chocolate-and-giveaway.html

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  29. You brought tears of recognition to my eyes. All I live is with and through my memories. Everything is related to my past,my family's, my country's past.
    The world we live in can only be experienced through the knowledge of our collective memories.
    I am as well writing, and the longer I think about it, it's because I do not ever want to forget!
    In that bag of mine I carry also memories, which lay heavy on my soul, but the idea to create good memories for the future speaks to me as well!
    I had to smile, our lives overlap when it comes to our "past' designer careers turned writer!
    Strangely the longer I write the less I regret the changes. And what do we know, perhaps one day there will be a need for our skills in that department again! We do remember...
    Thank you my friend to put it again so eloquently!
    xoxo

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  30. Love how you have written this post and how you bring it to conclusion. Stop and notice... I seem to rush through life sometimes, or wish it away - catching myself saying things like 'I wish it was Friday' on a Monday. It makes me sad as I don't want to live like that, so am taking steps (tiny ones, baby ones at the moment) to change. And to remember to smile at each day instead of wishing it away.

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  31. Mary Poppins carpet bag. How lovely! Great post Pamela xx

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  32. This is one of my favorite posts....it is so perfectly timed!

    I remember rooms as far back (almost since I was alive!)
    However...that guy I just met guys name is what???

    Too many messages in too many places for my brain!

    My daughter has asked (on her land line) "Please do not leave a message here....use my cel phone instead! (the last part may not be on the recording).

    I find that revolutionary. Someone actually said.....Please do not leave a message on this phone.

    It is polite, it is smart. And I am going to do it.!

    Love learning from "young'uns"
    Right now;

    1)voicemail at home on land line
    2) answering the phone land line
    3) cel phone voice mail
    4)answering the cel phone.
    5)texting the cel phone
    6)home phone voicemail
    7)answering the home phone
    8)texting the cell phone
    9)messages by text on cell phone
    11)email.
    12 I am totally drowned in it....some can see the light..and actually respond within acceptable limits.


    EEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!

    and this is communication that is not fostering relationships !

    Just call me "Gloom!" or , you can call me "Doom " for short......

    or always call me Penelope!

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I love to read your comments! Each and every one! Though I'm always reading your comments, I may not respond in the comment section. If you want to write me directly, you may do so at pamela@pamelaterry.net. Thank you for reading!