Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Persistence of Memory

After reading Kara’s blog (Check it out here) about how she thinks she isn’t as smart as she used to be (and she is, but her brain has just prioritized its focus now that she's had children), it made me think about my own intelligence and how it has always suffered at the evil whims of my ever-fleeting memory. It’s like a sponge that sucks up information and then dumps it into some sort of well that is guarded by a despotic memory-lord only allowing fragments of memories loose at a time, but only if it is requested in triplicate, filed at the office and complete with a photograph of the disputed memory in question.

To put it bluntly: I can’t remember anything. My comment in to her blog tonight is a perfect example. I was watching a restoration show on DIY about a Alfa Romeo, and granted it was on a 10:30 or 11:00 (see I don’t even remember that) and I had been “on” all day with the kids…and it was especially difficult what with Matty having the sniffles and not being able to nap well… but the commercials came on, and around the second one, I wondered why I was staying up so late when I have work to do and a bed waiting. Then I said to myself, of course, I want to finish this show. But wait. What am I even watching? I couldn’t remember for the life of me until the show came back on.

I need to go to bed.

But that’s not really an isolated experience for me. I forget things all the time and it used to be worse. I’m not going to blame Matthew and Natalie for it, because when they were born, no chemical reaction touched off a genocide of neurons on my brain. For the most part, I just lack retention. When I had a desk job as an editor of a magazine, that was my focus. I did little else with my brain but plan for future issues, deal the current one and deep-archive the previous ones. I was engrossed, and I took my work home with me not only physically almost every night, but mentally as well. Except for Fridays... I just stopped showing up on Fridays.

It was sad. Nobody noticed.

Anyway, I was always thinking of the magazine, the things I had to do, how to make it better, what I had to write, etc., but it was to the detriment of all of my other brain functions. I just couldn't focus on anything else. It's not that it wasn't important. I had just used all of my brain that day and there wasn't anything leftover to remember what to get at the store or that I left the iron on upstairs. I would forget dates, names, places, things Kara tells me (and not just the selective stuff I tell her that I forget, it would be a lot of things), things to do, where I'm going... everything.

I was a goldfish in a small bowl. "Ooo look, a treasure chest." Swim, swim, swim. "Ooo look, a treasure chest." Swim, swim, swim. "Ooo look..."

Every time it seems, I would walk into Home Depot with a mental list of things I needed to get for whatever projects I wanted to tackle that weekend and I would forget them all. Standing there in the lightbulb aisle (waiting for an idea…get it, get it?), I would scrounge my brain to remember what exactly I wanted to accomplish, and I would never bring home everything I needed.

By the time I made it to the top of the stairs in our house, I would forget why I was there and what I needed to get, and by the time I returned to the bottom, it would come to me, of course.

Several months after I got laid off from the magazine, things started to become clearer. I began to work at home. My lifestyle began to slow down. The pace was smoother, calmer and without those mental taxes nine-to-fivers seem to pay everyday: the broken copy machine, TPS Reports, your red Swingline stapler, “a case of the Mondays,” Bob auditing your performance, Mr. Lundstrom wanting you to work late on Friday, somebody playing their radio while they collate. All of these things beat memories out of you because they override your brain process.

Soon, I started to remember more and more often. I’m still couldn’t tell you what I ate yesterday for lunch or what the latest “Good Eats” show I like to watch was about this afternoon, but I’m more apt to remember the important things in life, now that I have very little else to excise my brain.

Sure, there’s always work to do, and even that is improving. Since I only do one freelance article at a time (as opposed to when I was at the magazine and I would be writing four or five articles simultaneously for any given issue), I don’t fuddled by the details, bogged down by having to remember what the contacts are, who should I speak to, what questions to ask. I remember when to use “whom” and when to use “who” and my “that” and “which” are no longer confused. Heck, I can even remember the difference between compliment and complement…well, no, that isn’t true; I always have to look it up.

Believe it or not, but I can make it to Subway and back with Kara's correct order without having to call from the counter while the sandwich "artist" (as they call themselves) waits while I confirm the order.

Furthermore, if anything is helping my memory, it’s the kids. By taking care of them, I’m forced to remember more: the caravan of crap needed just to go anywhere, the times and amounts of feedings needed to keep them off of the impoverished list and all of the myriad details that goes into this rearing process.

So, am I smarter? “You’re not smarter, Walter, you’re just a little taller.” I love that movie. Nah, I’m not any smarter than I was 10 years ago. I am wiser, but I still do the same dumb things from time to time. I think Ronnie Lane and Ronnie Wood were onto something with “Ooh La La” when they wrote (for Rod Stewart to sing): “I wish that I knew what I know now/When I was younger.”

In local news, Natalie spent some time on the naughty spot for straight-arming her brother to the ground this afternoon. I was surprised she did it, but then again, I was surprised it took her so long to do it. Matty had been invading her space for about 10 minutes, standing next to Gnat’s bed, clawing at the most special of her “guys,” the frogs. She would bark “no,” and him not grasping the language quite yet, would continue. So, she slid over next to him, placed her palm rather gently on his shoulder and pushed. He toppled like a domino, much to my relief, onto a rather large pile of Natalie’s stuffed animals, and he had that “let’s do it again” look on his face. Though he wasn’t hurt, that didn’t make it right, so Natalie got dragged out into the hallway and clunked down on the naughty spot to think about being nicer to her brother. “Friends don’t push” was the message I tried to impart. Seriously, if he was two inches taller, he would have hit the wall.

The waterworks began, and she cried, “I want to apologize now,” which has always the first step on the road to redemption and the eventual reintroduction back into society. You've got to atone for your transgressions. I let her stew there for a few minutes, as I’m discovering the older she gets the less tolerant I am of those kinds of actions. She knew that she could have hurt him, and the second after she did it, she had an "uh-oh, I'm in for it now" look on her face, as if she was surprised herself that he fell over and didn't just slide on his feet to the left. Then again, every time Natalie is next to Matthew and he starts to cry, she retreats slightly and looks at me as if to say, “I didn’t do it. You see where my hands are, right? Nowhere near him, okay? He's crying for some other reason. I didn't touch him.”

After a few minutes of quiet sobs, she was emancipated under the condition that she apologizes and promises not to do it again. Sure, they're empty--anything to earn her freedom--but at least she's learning the groundwork. She offered Matthew a hug and said that she was sorry. With her debt paid in full, she was pardoned and thrown back into the general population, albeit with another tick mark on her impressively long rap sheet of offenses.

Did justice prevail? Nah, probably not. She’ll do it again, I’m sure; Natalie, the recidivist.

Matthew, the poor little fella’ has had better days. This morning began with a double barreled snot gun shooting green ick from his nose with every sneeze, and it didn’t let up all day, just sort of drained out into a clear mustache over his mouth. I walked around the house like a bartender, making sure nobody got too rowdy, that Natalie’s juice and/or milk cup was topped off, while the towel (well, an old cloth diaper) spent the day over my shoulder at the ready to sop up anything that oozed from Matthew’s face. It seemed that now there were three orifices discharging some manner of slime at any give time of the day, and every few minutes, Old Snotful would erupt. The teething chose not to let up as well, so he drooled a bucket-load, and I didn’t find it uncommon to see his mouth connected to the floor by a long sinewy talon of shiny slobber; while the front of his shirt was drenched within the first hour of putting it on him.

Sleep wasn’t an option (for anyone, including me… of course, the damn dog slept all day, lucky), as Matthew also must have had an upset stomach. He sat on the floor, grunting and groaning for about 15 minutes only to produce what I could barely describe as peanuts. And nobody likes to work that hard for peanuts.

I think Natalie is growing out of them, as I she hasn’t taken a nap on my watch in a couple of weeks. There goes some of my afternoon peace and quiet. Grrrr.


Well, everyone’s asleep now (even Elsa). I just finished feeding Matthew his midnight, well 1:40 AM, bottle, and Natalie’s already done her creepy sleepwalking into the hall to stare at me routine. But this time, she went to the bathroom, left the light on and just went back to her own bed… which is odd for her. By herself too. Doubly odd.

Tomorrow we have a busy day at the beach, and that can only mean that I’ll be one day closer to jury duty.

I’d better dust off my “Hang ‘Em High, and Let ‘Em Fry” t-shirt. Ah, justice.

*By the way, if anyone can post a comment here explaining why I chose this particular Dali painting to illustrate today's entry will receive a fabulous prize [Art majors not eligible for fabulous prizes but can still post the comment].


BK said...

The title of your post is the same name as the painting.

BK said...

The title of your post is the same name as the painting.

Ryan said...

We have a winner! It was rather easy, but BK was the first to ring in with the correct answer. Of course, this is the very famous "melting clocks" painting known as "The Persistence of Memory."

Thank you for playing. BK, your fabulous prize will arrive on Thursday, personally delivered by the astronauts from the returning Space Shuttle...and Bob Dole!


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