Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Walking into the Museum

My friend David recently described a tendency to dwell on the past too much, with the phrase "walking into the museum".

Walking into it? I'm never out of the blasted place!

It's not entirely deliberate. I'm fortunate - - or perhaps that should be unfortunate - - to have a very good memory. It comes in handy for - well - remembering things that I need to remember. I've only had a diary for a few years, since I started doing quite so many different jobs in different places. Before then, I just remembered everything.

In fact, I used to find that if I wrote something down, it went out of my head, so I preferred to just learn it. I've never been a maker of written lists: just mental ones. As I get older, I realise that I'm probably going to have to make the lists on paper.

Recently, I've tried to learn to both write things down - things like jobs and appointments - and to remember them too. I usually have a pretty good mental grasp of what I'm going to be doing in the next few weeks.

I dread losing my memory, because I take it so much for granted and I have always used it such a lot. I'm not particularly proud of it: when I did well in exams, I used to feel I'd somehow cheated, because a lot of school exams were - in my day at least - simply memory tests. If you'd like me to recite the countries of South America - - as they were in about 1971, I haven't updated my memory - I can still do it, and if anyone requires a sketch map of the Great Lakes, well, I'm your woman.

The trouble is, there's a whopping big downside to all this. Every bad memory of every bad event of my life is always ready to spring back to me, in all its hideousness, when something triggers it. The worse the memory, it seems, the greater the detail.

Tomorrow's the twenty-sixth anniversary of the death of my first baby, who was born prematurely. I can remember every detail of that day - even down to the fact that I had to make a phone call from the hospital and that was the first day I'd heard the new, much lighter, dial tone.

I'm not going to tell you all the details. I'm going to walk out of the museum and watch telly instead. My constant wandering around in that far-off day doesn't help anyone.


Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

I had just been saying to the missus that if there was one thing I required, it was a sketch map of the Great Lakes.


It's always better, I have decided this late in life, to walk out of the museum rather than rehearse the details over and over.

That way lies madness.

11:24 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

The other day Shirley told our son Ian about his first shoes - not just the first pair but the first three or four pairs. She could remember them vividly - even where we bought them. In contrast, I couldn't remember a single pair nor ever entering a shoe shop to buy them. My memory is different. I remember the places I have travelled in detail and in spite of myself I remember past injustices, embarrassments and mistakes. It's funny how differently we remember our lives and none of it is consciously chosen - it just happens.

11:40 pm  
Anonymous Ruth said...

With my now severely diminished memory capacity I sometimes would like to have the need to walk out of the museum but at the moment I can't remember where it is.

I hope TV happily escorted you out.

7:08 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thinking of you on your day of sad rememberances. (I don't suppose you'll be able to stay out of the museum all day.)

9:06 am  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

Daphne, you and I both have the luxury of not having had siblings. Someone told me once that no matter how perfectly you think you remember something, your siblings will always inform you that you are mistaken and that it was really quite different.

There are 7,000,000,000 perceptions in the naked city...

12:26 pm  

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