Yohannon (yohannon) wrote,
Yohannon
yohannon

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H%*/sker D%*/?

Thanks to a recent discussion via kshandra's journal I had a very interesting thought regarding the nature of memory, names, and relationships. Let's see how far off I am on this one.


As I'm sure I've muttered darkly ere now, I have this rather annoying little syndrome known as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperkinetic Disorder). I was diagnosed with it only after thoroughly refusing to believe I had it, but being persuaded by disparate sources that there seemed to be some reason to think it was worth looking into. The story I liked to tell about my experience trying cocaine in college seemed to seal the deal for a lot of people: How, after doing several lines, I had the best night's sleep I had in years, thus annoying my roomies who (also having done some) were less than happy with my bright and cheery demeanor the next day. It also explained why No-Doz never seemed to work properly for me, to the point I almost passed out behind the wheel late one night after taking it to keep alert while driving home.I could have convinced myself that it was just another convenient label for people to hang on me if it weren't for concrete, physical reactions such as those. Add in some of the other symptoms, and I discovered I was "disabled" and had been all my life.While having some personal issues with the concept, it was also comforting to realize what I had accomplished not knowing what was "wrong" with me. In fact, as I was recently reminded, it was only several intense life experiences happening in rapid succession (including the deaths of three people close to me over a 3 month period) that finally pushed me past my ability to mask my problems.One of those happens to be a very odd sense of memory. I used to think there was nothing unusual about my memory, even when I recalled things that would make even my mother's jaw drop. Last August, for example, I accidentally wound up in Coney Island while driving back from NJ. It was a minor bit of confusion borne of the fact that I was unused to traveling to and from southern Jersey -- I lived for a time further north, which was easier and far cheaper to get to via the Geo. Washington Bridge/Cross Bronx Expwy/White Stone Bridge route.Once hitting the amusement area (which, for some reason, I had never been to when I lived back east) I made a couple of turns, and had this weird feeling of displacement, like I had been there before...only everything seemed off for some reason. Then, looking ahead about a block, I saw a distinctive building that I knew to be a hospital, even though I didn't see any signs about saying such. As I turned the corner, I got a chill...I remembered the building, and that memory predated what I previously thought to be my earliest memory. That would be the removal of my tonsils at age 18 months.Calling Mom (who else?) I asked if she remembered ever taking me to Coney Island when I was younger. She didn't think so, so I had almost decided I was just being silly, when she added "at least not since that time we took you to see the fireworks the fourth of July the year you were born."Suddenly I realized why the buildings and the area seemed so weird...they seemed smaller. They also looked odd for someone who had last seen them while lying back in my father's old convertible with the top down...a car that he had gotten rid of before I turned 4.I was born mid-February of 1963. Which means my earliest memory was at the age of 4 months, 3 weeks.Of course, then I have trouble remembering to eat lunch, or the scripting language I just learned last week. Then I remember things and bits of trivia I barely paid attention to at the time I came across them, whether it was yesterday or 20 years ago. One moment, I sound like I could win "Jeopardy", the next I sound like I should be spoon fed and walked about by the arm.Shortly after being diagnosed I got my butt into therapy (they would have strongly suggested it anyway, but I was already having issues in my life and was determined to deal with it all). My therapist made an interesting point about ADHD...a lot of the things that are found in the syndrome are found pretty much in everyone...just a few degrees more intensely. My knobs all go to 11...that's one more, innit?Arguments for the pros and cons of this trait exaggeration aside, it's made me painfully aware of the importance we place on memory, not so much for the utilitarian aspects (doing our jobs, winning at trivial pursuit, assorted academic accomplishments), but in terms of how people judge our personal commitment to others.It was talking not just of the mis-use of names, but of forgetting them entirely, that set off this line of thinking. I recalled a button that assures the reader, "Hi! I don't remember your name either". A phrase that defies convention by confessing something that people will go great pains to avoid admitting.Why the fear? Well, as a culture we place a great deal of emphasis on memorization. Schools emphasize brute force "rote" assimilation of facts over deduction and creative thinking. Socially, there is constant pressure to memorize facts as a form of proof of the worthiness to associate with others, from business connections to the spouse/spice. The most common comedic situations (and comedy, after all, thrives on the most discomfiting of real life conflicts) is something forgotten, resulting in frantic efforts on the part of someone to either avoid admitting the lapse, or to repair the damage -- forgetting (or misremembering):- important dates (birthday, anniversary, etc.)- ANY dates (appointments, meetings, classes, tests...)- gifts (what someone wanted for their b-day, etc.)- names (of course!)A variation on this would be not having the knowledge in the first place, or neglecting to look it up.There is always a penalty implied or overt for failing to recall the proper facts. At times there is a moral message, the ideal of simply admitting that you can't recall, and simply asking.If being diagnosed explained how I could completely "lose" certain facts, or miss things explained to my face while I am focussing completely on the source of information, accepting the diagnosis gave me a wonderful gift...the ability to say to someone, in effect, "This is not in any way related to my feelings about this subject or you...I simply need to hear the information again."This seems so simple on it's face, yet there are people who read such an admission as a form of rejection of them or of the cause they support, or the knowledge they wish to impart.Then there are whole other layers (and even more grist for the comedic juggernaut) when you add in deliberate deceit or a desire for secrecy on the part of others. One of the reasons I can't lie is the fact I simply can't keep track of "alternate facts", if you will. Honesty is often portrayed as undiplomatic at best, downright hurtful and rude otherwise.The desires of others for secrecy is even harder...sometimes I find myself in the position of trying to remember who wanted to keep what from whom, often with hilarious results (yes, more comedy). Recently I almost stepped in it with a lover who is also sleeping with a friend of mine. He had broken a date with her while visiting from out of town, only to wind up sleeping with yet ANOTHER common lover (ah, the joy of polyamory!). It was not an intentional deceit on his part, but it was compounded when she called me just as I walked in on the two of them having rather joyous sex.This was quite some time ago, and I almost made a comment about the incident to the woman in question, and caught myself...badly, as she noted my tension. I *suck* at keeping those kinds of secrets. However, I was saved when she told ME what had happened...turns out his other lovers had chastised him into telling her the whole thing and apologizing over a year ago.Secrets that I can keep? The ones where I'm told things that, quite frankly, make me nauseous. There are things so horrific, particularly from an abuse standpoint, that I simply would not repeat them. Maybe in very general terms, when it helps to re-assure someone that they are NOT at fault, or somehow permanently rendered defective by their past experiences. The same goes for extreme sexual fantasies...while not as damaging, at least in a personal sense, I can assure people in all honesty that even the most bizarre mental stimulation is a lot more common. I wish more people would talk about all such things...I think that's why the internet has resulted in some very good things, as people are less afraid to talk and share their positive and negative experiences, and how to deal with either.Re-reading this far it's fascinating to see how there's yet another facet to the social aspects of memory...from things we want to remember, or fear forgetting, to the things we want to forget...or fear remembering. People who judge us by what we remember...or forget. It seems that memory has us regardless of which way we go.Back to that button, the one that comes right out and confesses forgetfulness. Can we, as a society, ever reach the point when we can say "I remember YOU...I just forgot what you're called"? Can we realize that this is not an indication of how important a person is to us, or how dear the memory (I suddenly recall the old joke of someone looking at someone after a night of incredible sex and asking "what was your name again?")? Can we then accept the bad memories, the re-lived horrors, the nightmares in ourselves and others as things that happened, and give comfort without judgement?I hate it when the answers don't come easily, so I'll change that a bit... I apply that same paragraph, only I'm going to narrow the focus to just myself. At least then I think I can answer "Yes...and sometimes no". Yes, because I'm already doing it. No, because sometimes I'm human and I fuck up.I guess that's going to have to do for the moment.
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