on remembering, on forgetting

Student of memory.  I remember some things and have forgotten others.  Louise Erdrich, Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

Driving home yesterday, I was wishing I was better at remembering. Remembering everything. Foreign languages, cranial nerves, the names of my friends’ siblings, and just the regular details of living.

I was thinking about the stories old couples tell. I love hearing them recount how they met fifty years ago, the hard times they went through together, the funny thing that happened that random day so long ago. I wish I could remember all the details of my life like that. I know they don’t remember everything, and their retellings likely change with time, but I am still amazed at the minutia they can conjure up. I was thinking as I drove, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to remember everything? To be able to tell those stories to your grandkids, so they could learn how you “knew it was right,” how you got where you are, and all that other good stuff. But I already feel like I’ve forgotten so much. So many of my memories are already hazy. I’ve never been terribly confident in my memory.

Really, we are our memories. All we are is what we remember. If every day, we forgot everything we knew from the day before, we’d never survive. I mean literally. We wouldn’t be able to do anything—walk, eat, talk. What we remember makes us who we are.

There in my car, wishing I could remember everything better, this quote from my favorite book came to mind: “Student of memory. I remember some things and have forgotten others.” I’ve always loved that. Something about it just feels right. It’s calming. And sitting there at a stoplight, I realized it’s ok to forget some things. If we are what we remember, I’m glad I’ve forgotten some things. I thought of this woman I saw on a show a while back (coincidentally, I can’t remember what show) who remembered everything she ever saw. It wasn’t just a photographic memory. She actually remembered everything. She said it was a curse. To never have traumatizing memories fade? To never be able to quiet your mind? I hadn’t ever considered it before then, but it seems being able to forget is a blessing.

I am a student of memory. I forget some things and remember others. I learn from the things I keep. I just hope the things I remember and the things I forget are the right ones. And I hope the things I remember stay in tact in my mind for a long, long time to come. (And I hope the material from my anatomy class stays in tact at least one more week… long enough to pass my last two exams.)

Category: books, hopes, quotes, what's inside 2 comments »

2 Responses to “on remembering, on forgetting”

  1. Luone

    I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who struggles with memory issues! Strange how I have forgotten so much. And yet, there are things I remember, and there are definitely things I wish I didn’t. Also strange how memories between siblings are so different – things my brother remembers vs. what I remember – it’s as if we grew up in different countries, not in the same house…with the same parents. Weird how I can remember my address from when I was 4, but not my daughter’s first words. Strange how my children remember things that I have no recollection of. Anxiety inducing how they remember things I told them, and I am afraid I might have said things to comfort them that weren’t entirely accurate… My brother has asked me recently if I have ever wondered WHY I don’t remember things. Maybe I need counseling…but if I can’t remember what I can’t remember, how could that help?

  2. Kelly

    Haha: “…but if I can’t remember what I can’t remember, how could that help?” That is an amusing question. It makes me think of that strange feeling I get when I suddenly remember something I hadn’t thought about in ages. It doesn’t happen very often. Have you ever had that happen? It feels like the memory suddenly pours over you, like someone just turned on a faucet in your brain. It is so strange.


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