Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mission to remember...


Her: I think I'm losing my mind. It's on the symptom list: loses one's mind. It's happening.

Him:
How do you mean?

Her: Have you noticed me forgetting a lot of things lately? And losing words? Losing people?

Him: What's the symptom, the real symptom?

Her: (as if quoting medical text) Loss of memory, inability to concentrate or focus...

Him: You seem a little scattered but it's been busy.

Her: No, okay on Friday, let me tell you, on Friday? My friend came up to me and thanked me for the note I sent her, told me it meant a lot to her.

Him: Okay...

Her: I did not remember writing a note! What note? Why did I write it? What did it say?

Him:
Was it just...

Her:
It was just a note that was clearly important to her! And I had no clue! I watched as all the meaning just leached out of that note. Because I could not remember!

Him: Did you ever get it?

Her: Yes. It was so humiliating. She had to explain it to me. She had to tell me about the note I wrote to her.

Him: Well did you explain to her?

Her: No! No I couldn't! How do you tell someone that? In less than 1200 words?

Him: Look, everyone forgets things, you've been busy.

Her:
Okay what about yesterday? Two people I know walked up to me to talk to me and I think I really hurt their feelings because I couldn't recall who they were! Me! I remember people's names and faces for forever.

Him: But it's normal to forget people you don't know well.

Her: One was our neighbor, who I see at school every day!

Him: But he's not a close friend.

Her: It's not just that. I know his name, I know I do, but I couldn't get to it, that knowledge. It's the other man, though, the one at the park. I can't forget how he looked. He walked towards me, his face so open and expectant, happy, glad to see me. He knew me.

(pause)

I...I think I might have taken a step back as he came closer. I was so confused. His face looked familiar, but was it just one of those faces? The kind that look familiar?

(pause)

But maybe...maybe I have one of those faces. I don't know, that's the problem, I don't know. I...I took that step, the one back. And I think maybe it showed on my face, so he stopped. Did you see that? How he came towards me and then I stepped back and he stopped?

Him: Maybe, I don't know, I guess so.

Her: He stopped and looked confused. His smile just melted off of his face. And he paused, then turned away.

Him: I'm sorry, I didn't see.

Her: Should I have gone forward? Said hello, just in case? I didn't know what to do. I can still picture his face. Isn't that crazy? I can remember his face vividly, but him, I can't remember him.

Him: Maybe you didn't know him.

Her: No, I think...I think maybe I was supposed to know him. He came towards me. I looked around, oh, maybe that's what I did, I glanced around me to see if he meant me or someone else, except, there wasn't anybody else nearby. Or maybe I took a step back. Maybe it was that I glanced around, didn't see anybody and then took a step back or felt like I took a step back. Did you see me, what did I do?

Him:
I don't know, I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention.

Her: It's, you know, it's so hard to know what to trust. The other person? Me? My mind? My mind telling me, "No, you don't know him!" Or my gut, saying, "Maybe you do, or did," like an instinct. Because he was walking towards me. So that meant he knew me, right? Unless he's wrong. But I don't know. That's the problem, I don't know. What do you do when you can't trust your own mind? When you can't count on your own mind?

Him: I don't know either. I don't know how to pay attention or know for you. I don't know where this is coming from. I thought you were doing better. You seem mostly okay, better.

Her: I was, for a while. But last week, it fell apart again. I can't seem to get fragments in my mind together sometimes. I get confused, lost. I was trying so hard to remember Jane's last name. You know Jane? And that man I used to work with, the funny one...what's his name? This morning I was writing and I couldn't think of that word...and now I don't even remember what word it was. I saw a note from a friend asking for something, and I can't remember if I did it. I forget things, all the time, now. And some days I look at paper and just can't seem to follow instructions...like ordering the shirts. I write notes to remind myself of things and I forget to read the notes! This isn't me. This isn't me!

Him: Maybe the new medicine, the new doctor...

Her: I need my mind now! Now! It's terrible, like a jigsaw puzzle of a mind...I see all the pieces but I can't figure out how to put them together. Just...just things don't make sense sometimes. I can't stand it.

Him: Yes...

Her: Time is all jumbled up, too. I am suddenly remembering things from twenty, thirty years ago, like it was yesterday, but I can't remember that friend from a few years back.

Him: (consoling gesture)

Her: I think maybe it's time to get a notebook for me to wear around my neck. I think if I start writing down everything, maybe I can look at the paper and put it together.

Him: No, really, it can't be that bad...

Her: It is, it's that bad. I'll trail off in the middle of conversations. My friends expect me to be scattered now. Flaky. I've got a new reputation as flaky. I can't look anyone in the face anymore.

Him: Oh...oh hon...

Her: (deep breaths, calming) I don't know what else to do. A notebook necklace. It'll be the new rage.

***
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Memory
First published Tue Mar 11, 2003; substantive revision Mon May 10, 2004

‘Memory’ is a label for a diverse set of cognitive capacities by which humans and perhaps other animals retain information and reconstruct past experiences, usually for present purposes. Our particular abilities to conjure up long-gone episodes of our lives are both familiar and puzzling. We remember experiences and events which are not happening now, so memory seems to differ from perception.

...

Memory seems to be a source of knowledge, or perhaps just is retained knowledge. Remembering is often suffused with emotion. It is an essential part of much reasoning. It is connected in obscure ways with dreaming. Some memories are shaped by language, others by imagery. Much of our moral life depends on the peculiar ways in which we are embedded in time. Memory goes wrong in mundane and minor, or in dramatic and disastrous ways.

...an understanding of memory is likely to be important in making sense of the continuity of the self, of the relation between mind and body, and of our experience of time...

When we can so easily remember, don't we sometimes carelessly think how lovely it might be to forget? And yet, memory is the thing we use to "make sense of the continuity of self."

Forgetting is not erasing. It is still there, in you, but you can't reach it. It is a terrible pain of knowing you should know but don't.

Losing your memory feels like losing yourself.

It's normal to forget. We get busy, shift priorities, time passes and the memory loses its importance.

So sometimes, because remembering is too important for this particular thing, we set up reminders, use mnemonics. Note on paper, thoughts in a diary, strings around fingers. Or maybe we create a day specifically to remember.

Today, November 11, is such a day: Veteran's Day. It's the day set aside to remember the cost of war, to ponder the heroism of people who go to war or are caught in a war, and to remember that once, four wars ago, the world fought a war that was meant to end all wars.

I've talked about peace.

Today...I'm simply going to remember. In my head, I think of names, people I've known and people I know who are in this war or a past war. I think of people I don't know, too, people I imagine or see and hear about on the news.

Maybe you will too.

It's just a little thing, but it's a bit of honoring.

This is part of the Monday Mission, and the request for us to pause in remembrance today.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Using My Words
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23 comments:

Family Adventure said...

Julie, again...may I commend you on your excellent writing. (I actually thought you were doing the Monday Mission at first.)
A notebook necklace would be a statement. Definitely. I might need one, too.

Hope you had a good Remembrance Day

Heidi

PS: Yes, Norwegians do eat reindeer. It's actually...(whispers) good! And no, they're *not* Santa's reindeer. My poor children were traumatized.

Gina Pintar said...

Was that first part true or just fiction to make a point? If it was true try omega's. I take evening primrose oil and fish oil. They help mood and memory. The omega's help protect the mylenation (sp?) in the brain. Keeps them flowing and keeps the information flowing. It is like insulation on copper wire. Hugs.

painted maypole said...

remembering....

thank yor for this lovely monday mission entry. I love when people take it and do something totally unexpected with it. nicely done.

Julie Pippert said...

Thanks (twice!) Heidi, for the compliment and verifying that The Guy who Looks like the Naked Archeologist but Who Isn't wasn't blowing smoke about the reindeer. (No pun intended LOL).

This is a part of the Monday Mission. I was err doing two things at once (trying to avoid that bird saying here).

******

Gina, I don't know if I can say fact or fiction. Let's say based on reality. We all know what this disease does to your brain, so yeah, it's fairly true. Usually I have it covered, sometimes, things get back out of balance and it all goes awry.

******

PM, thanks. Good topic!

Julie
Using My Words

slouching mom said...

Why, Julie! In addition to everything else you do so well, you are a playwright!

Clever you.

Kyla said...

You and your poor brain, dear! Goodness, that would be frustrating. Maybe a tape recorder, you know, "Note to self:" ;) Half kidding, of course, but maybe an upgrade from the notepad idea.

kwrenb said...

Julie.
This post touched me deeply.
Deeply enough to bring tears.

I was following Blogrush and felt like I'd just tumbled into your life.
Thank you.
I will be back.

flutter said...

Oh honey.

Kathryn said...

That was gorgeous. It made me cry. My father has Alzheimer's and I imagine this is what he goes through on a daily basis. Thank you for this post.
Your writing is exquisite.

Christine said...

i love you julie. . .

Momish said...

Wonderful post Julie. Memory is so fleeting, it is nice to be reminded to remember!

Kellan said...

Julie, this post really touched me. I became afraid. I also became aware. Thanks for sharing these thoughts and fears and realities. I forget a lot these days - it used to come back, lately it just vanishes. It is frightening and frustrating. Take care. Kellan

Queen of the Mayhem said...

Did I ever mention I am SO glad I found you and your blog? Just in case I forgot to tell you how wonderful you are! :)


Thanks for the reminder about our veterans!

Yolanda said...

Loved everything about that conversation. I'll comment onit objectively as a peice of writing, because I don't yet know you enough to understand the motivation behind the piece, but I think it would work even without the script-style annotations. It reminds me so much of that Hemmingway story, Hills Like White Elephants. So much is being said in the subtext of the two speaker's dialogue here and I really love the mystery of it. A pleasure to run into this, today.

Lawyer Mama said...

Oh, babe. (((HUGS))) I've been like that a lot too. I think, in my case, it's definitely medication related but it's still so frustrating whether you know the cause or not. But, hey, maybe that guy was just one of those people who thought he knew you but then when he got closer realized you were someone else entirely.

Laura said...

Very clever post - thanks for sharing!

Scribbit said...

Looks like you're up for a Tony this year after this post :) . . .

Ali said...

Yep, I have those experiences and really, it scares me. Really scares me. I'm about to invest in one of those medication packs where each day is marked and medication for the day placed inside. That way I'll know when I've taken my daily supplements and I won't take triple doses or none at all.

If this may be caused by where you live, are you moving?

Ali

Emily said...

The perfect Veteran's day post.

And, girl, I never, ever can remember names or faces.

wordgirl said...

We're a nation of mult-taskers. I've heard this contrbutes to forgetfulness because our minds aren't ever fully focused on the task at hand. I don't think you're losing your mind...but a notebook necklace is genius.

atypical said...

Did I ever tell you about the time I started crying in the bathroom because I suddenly couldn't remember whther I always replace the roll over the top or under the bottom? Yeah, so, the memory thing scares the heck out of me too (though I keep telling myself that insomnia and medication use can have this effect).

Veteran's Day always makes me think of my great uncle who died at 17 in World War II. I look like him.

Thank you for this post.

-me

Sober Briquette said...

i worry about this. not for nothin'.

yesterday I had to ask Fiona, "What's that bear called? The white one?"

Polar bear.

Julie said...

You took this post somewhere so very lovely, so I feel bad bringing up a postmodern novel in response, but have you ever read Don DeLillo's novel White Noise? It's all tied up with forgetting and memory and all things interesting about that. There's deja vu. A pill whose main side effect is forgetting. It's a great book.