Memory. Webster’s on-line dictionary defines it as: 1. a : the power or process of reproducing or recalling what has been learned and retained especially through associative mechanisms b : the store of things learned and retained from an organism’s activity or experience as evidenced by modification of structure or behavior or by recall and recognition. It is something we all have, and for some it is one of the most difficult of all human experiences.
I have been “blessed” with what some would consider a great memory. While not having an eidetic memory or hyperthymesia, I have the ability to recall many event of my life in vivid detail. While some of these memories can be traumatic, walking in on your single mother and her gentleman friend having an “intimate” moment for example, others can be quite warm and nostalgic.
I can remember with extreme clarity the birth of my children; my wedding(s); funerals of loved ones; birthday celebrations; trips and vacations and a host of other events that have occurred in my lifetime. I remember the first time I saw that girls and boys were VERY different. I was ten at the time and have been fascinated by the difference ever since. I remember my mother sitting by the Christmas tree in tears because her boyfriend was not going to be with her for the holiday. The memories we have as children make us who we are as adults.
I can remember the pains of jealousy I felt as an only child watching cousins, who to me lived in idyllic families, mother, father and siblings, tear open presents at my grandmother’s. I remember the feelings of isolation and loneliness as I sat apart from this Rockwellian picture. Then I became an adult. Note, I didn’t say that I grew up, just older. A part of me still has that hole in my consciousness that developed during my early years. I suppose that is why I have such an intense dislike for holidays.
I write all this, not to seek sympathy, but to make a point about issues that are manifesting themselves within me. Over the past year or so I find myself having vivid dreams and recalling in detail events that I thought I had locked away in my mind. I find that as I approach the latter part of sleep, memories of long past events thrust themselves into my subconscious. I awake, and remember that which I had tried to forget.
And yet on the flip side, I find myself having problems with short-term memory. Trips to the grocery store require a list. In fact trips out of the house require a list of where I am going. I don’t know if this is an issue of age, I would think not, as I am not all that old, but is rather due to the problems that I am having neurologically. The more I read, study and research neurological issues the more I identify various problems.
On days where I have moderate to severe mobility problems I am beginning to note cognitive issues also. It is as though the synaptic connections are firing higgly-piggly and I find myself unable to string together a line of coherent thinking. Once the rest of the body calms, the brain seems to calm also. But, it is during these fits and starts that I find the deeply rooted memories coming out.
It is as if the two sides of my brain are in conflict with each other. The intuitive right side duking it out with the rational left. All the while that this conflict is occurring I am being drawn deeper and deeper into past memories. I know that the brain is a massive computer, with untold storage capacity, and if given the right commands memories can be triggered from years past. Unless of course there is some organic damage to the brain.
I find this new realization fascinating, and wonder what memories will be brought forth. While there is some trepidation in dealing with this, it is quite interesting how the brain and the nervous system works.
Tony Shalhoub’s character, the brilliant, OCD detective, Adrian Monk, stated repeatedly in the series Monk that his great ability to remember things was “a blessing, and a curse.” I am starting to understand what he meant.