I forget

I have a terrible memory. I regularly lose my keys, my purse, I always accidentally leave things at people’s places when I’m visiting them. I have been known to leave my oven on overnight because I forget to turn it off when I’m done cooking, or leave my hair straightener on all day because I forget to turn it off when I’m done straightening. My coffeemaker has an auto shut off feature so that when I accidentally leave it on, it goes off after two hours. My microwave beaps once every minute after its done until you take whatever you were nuking out of the oven1.

My solution to my poor memory is to write myself notes, lots of notes. I have an intricate web of sticky notes on my wall a work to remind me of all the things I need to do 2. All events in my Palm Pilot calendar have alarms set to remind me about them3. I’m kind of like that guy in Memento.

But this morning took the cake. I was knocking out a few quick emails before I left to go to a workshop on campus and was jotting down a list of things I didn’t have the time to do before I left but needed to do as soon as I got back. “Post documents to course website.” “Make November payment for hockey registration.” Etc. And, as I typed out an email, I thought of something else I needed to do, but before I could write it down I forgot what it was! That’s right, I couldn’t remember it long enough to actually write it down on my reminder list!

I kind of thought it would come back to me. But it hasn’t. So either (a) it wasn’t actually that important, (b) I’ve remember and done whatever it was, but just didn’t remember that it was the thing I was trying to remember or (c) I’m supposed to be in some really important meeting right now and I’m not.

1Prior to this, I routinely found abandoned cups of tea in there, as I’d nuke my tea and then forget it was there until I went to nuke something else like the next day.

1Mostly because my whiteboard is already full of an intricate web reminding my of how I’m trying to structure the course I’m developing.

2Except hockey games. I seem to be able to remember that I play hockey every Sunday.

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  • I am pretty much convinced that people who repeatedly comment on how bad they are with remembering people’s names, with remembering things in general… that their problem is at least 80% owing to the fact that somewhere along the line they or someone else has decided or stated that they have a bad memory and from that point on, much like a certain hyper-commercialised self-help notion that idiots believe called The Secret, they only notice the experiences that back up their view of themselves as having a terrible memory. That is, you are your own biggest stumbling block to having a better memory because you are convinced you don’t have the capacity to remember things.

    For instance, if I constantly go on about how I’m not good at letting go of things emotionally, I’m hardly going to create an environment where it’s easy for me to improve at letting go of things. And I think that’s probably exactly what’s at work with respect to your memory, because you even point out the major exception: hockey. I’m sure you can remember any number of ridiculously detailed pieces of info about hockey, whether your own games or those of those losers who play for Vancouver. So seriously, how in the light of that is your memory bad?

    In a similar vein, I used to be convinced I was bad at remembering people’s names. When I finally stopped telling people how bad I was at it, I got a fuck of a lot better at it, because I wasn’t constantly reinforcing the notion that I was inherently bad at it.

    Not that I’m saying you really have a photographic memory or that I’m really the most emotionally evolved person alive and can remember the names of anyone I’ve ever met, but honestly? I don’t buy that you have a bad memory. And I don’t think you should, either.


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