Friday, July 31, 2009

Fading memories

I have always taken pride in having a pretty decent memory. I am convinced that I made it through grammar school, junior high, high school and college without doing a great deal of studying because I could rely on my memory when test time came. Because knowledge is closely tied with rote memorization.

I remember odd little details about interactions that other people don't seem to remember. It is a mixed blessing. There are some things in life that it would be better if they slid off the cracker of my synapses.

Now that I am in my 50s however, I find my memory is getting a bit fuzzy around the edges. Part of it is because of the amount of experience you have by the time you reach 50. All of it may be etched somewhere in a brain wrinkle, but sometimes it just takes too much effort to sort through the piles of memory to find.

I am not sure why we remember some things well and others things flit off the radar screen seconds after you experience them. I drive myself crazy sometimes trying to remember if I actually shut the garage door after driving away or left it wide open (something I've never done). Sometimes I actually have to turn around and drive back to confirm that I indeed shut the garage door.

I imagine, however, that we would go mad if we remembered every thing. Our brains would be like the houses of those people who horde things and move about little trails through their living rooms between stacks of newspapers and magazines. There would be so much minutia to sift through that we couldn't ever finish a thought because it would be tucked away in the corner under a pile childhood memories of what you ate at McDonald's for the first time.

Speaking of hoarders, I remember years ago being asked to take photographs of an old transient hotel my agency had purchased and was going to demolish to make way for a construction project. All of the low-income tenants had been relocated. Our real estate people wanted photos of each room for documentation purposes and I was kind of the resident photographer, writer, editor, gopher.

This cranky older right of way agent led me from room to room in the abandoned hotel snapping photos of what until recently been the homes of many disenfranchised people whose next step would have been the street if they hadn't had this sorry shelter to land in. One of the rooms had been occupied by a bonafide hoarder. I was horrified when the agent unlocked the door and I was faced with stacks and stacks of newspapers, flyers, and other scraps of papers. Narrow trails led from room to room. Even the bathtub and toilet were buried in magazines and newspapers. The kitchen was stacked to the ceiling with empty McDonald's coffee cups. I snapped photo after photo. I noted a handwritten note tacked to a door jam. Someone, presumebly the former tenant had written, "God loves you if no one else does." A twinge of saddness hit me. And it dawned on me that whoever this poor tortured soul was who had lived in uninhabitable apartment was, they'd been forced to leave without any of their beloved accumulation of trash. The right of way agent event joked how the person had been pulled away trying to pack stacks of the paper into a suitcase.

But I digress.

And I still wonder why we remember certain things and not others.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Feeling the love


"....I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now,
you like me!"


-Sally Field (accepting an Oscar for Places in the
Heart)

Like anyone, deep down, I have always wanted to be liked. I suppose it is survival instinct that makes us strive to be liked. It starts when you are a baby and realize that you are defenseless and need to rely on the big people around you to take care of you. So you begin picking up clues as to what behaviour triggers people to smile and want to do things for you...because they like you.

Now granted, it is easier to be liked when you are a cute little baby and can evoke oohs and aahhs by simply spitting up spaghetti. But as you grow and embrace your true personality, being liked becomes more and more of a challenge. By the time you are 50-something you probably have learned that very few people actually do like you. Or at least very few people like you unconditionally. Even a dog's devotion is based on the level of food in his bowl.

I've grown to believe that people's affection for each other is measured more in tolerance levels than in love. This is not to say people don't like or love other people. It is just that the old adage about familiarity breeding contempt has some merit to it.

I try not to be annoying, but I think it is a lost cause. Because unless you are totally without personality and mannerisms, you can't help but do something that annoys someone. It can be the inflection of your voice or an oft repeated gesture or phrase. Most things that annoy people are unconscious things that other people do. So the only way to make them aware of how annoying something they are doing is, is to tell them. That of course makes them self-conscious and they will be annoyed at you for bringing it to their attention.

It's a viscious circle.

Subconsciously, I think I make comments about people not liking me just so they will reassure me that that is not the case. As with any attempt to assuage self-pity, this ploy seldom works. People either like you or they don't (or you are likable or you aren't). You can't make people like you.

Which comes to my annual reflection on my lack of friends. I wouldn't say I have no friends. I'd say I lack close friends. And I would have to qualify that by defining a close friend as someone who gives a rat's ass about what is going on in your life as opposed to being totally absorbed with their own life.

Facebook friends don't count. Having friends on Facebook is more akin to collecting trading cards.

If I bemoan my lack of friends too loudly, someone will eventually say something about me "having to be a good friend to have a good friend." I will admit that I am not the best at flipping through my virtual roledex and keeping in touch with everyone I know (though Facebook does kind of work like that). But I have had people in my life over the years who I did care about and did make efforts to stay in touch with. And inevitably they would drift off into their worlds leaving me to believe that I had done something wrong or offended them or didn't use the right deoderant. So I was right back at that not so happy place of wondering why I'm not likeable.

I was thinking about my lack of friends the other night and I came to the conclusion that I don't really care. Frankly, with work and my family, I don't have a lot of energy left over for friends anyway. Having friends just obligates you to help people move or give them rides to the airport. And you have to listen to them. Who needs that?

I think I may be able to put my finger on why I don't have many friends.