Improve your memory?
As we get older, we often hear complaints about failing memory, not being able to recall people’s names or past events. I know people who state quite categorically that they are “no good with names” or “can’t do birthdays” or just have problems recalling what they did yesterday. They should count their blessings!
I have been told that I have an amazing memory. Now it could be simply due to being a Cancerian, who likes to relive the past, rather than look ahead into the scary future. (I am sure many Cancerians will say “hey I’m not like that!” so apologies in advance.) Or it could be a result of years of teaching and learning names and faces and lots of facts. I currently teach 160 college students and knew all their names within the first few weeks of term.
The problem with having a good memory is that I often recall important conversations verbatim, plus all the extra cues that go with the words. For example, recently I was able to remind my partner (to his great irritation!) of something he had said several weeks before, and even where we were standing when he said it. That doesn’t seem strange to me and, maybe, other people retain memories in this way. But the trouble is that when you can recall so much more information than others, they think you are making it up to suit yourself, or are just plain bonkers.
I can recall complete conversations between my children and myself (usually those involving someone asking someone else for money!) – my words, their responses, my words again. But when you remind them of these conversations at a later date, reeling off strings of words in this way and watch the astonishment spread across their faces, you realise that far from convincing them that you are right, they now see you as a sad freak! Previous partners have said that arguing with me is like being in a witness box with every past comment being brought back to haunt them! My partners don’t last long! Maybe it’s just a woman thing. What do you think?
The event which brought this all to a head, convincing me that my memory is more of a curse than a blessing, involves a two-year period in my life in the mid 1970s when, as a 19-year-old student in Manchester, I used to regularly babysit for a lovely family with 3 adorable children, aged 8, 6 and 3. I was very fond of the whole family and was often included in other non-babysitting occasions, like birthday parties. Their mum was a very likeable lady in her early 30s who was a yoga teacher and a very artistic person, with a house to match her style. The dad was of a similar mould and often played his acoustic guitar, and sang in a folk band in Manchester. I became very attached to the family and was a constant visitor in their house, feeding and seeing to the children, reading stories and so on. I took the six-year-old daughter to the ballet on several occasions.
When I moved away from Manchester, we lost touch but I thought about them many times over the years and, through some detective work, I tracked down the 8-year-old boy, who is now a celebrity photographer in London in his early forties. It was not hard!
When I realised I had found my lost family, I wrote at great length all my memories of them from those days, including the people I had met at their parties, descriptions of their Habitat furniture, which had so impressed me at that time, even mentioning the leather beanbags they had in their lounge, which I had always yearned to have myself!
I sat back waiting for their mother to reply, and for us to swap events from the last 30 years of our lives, knowing she would, by now, be in her 60s.
Sadly, the reply came from him that his mother could not remember me at all. (I didn’t expect him to, of course!)
When I went onto his website and recognised pictures of his two sisters, now grown up women, he refused to acknowledge that I was right. Clearly I am now perceived to be an obsessive stalker, who somehow knows all about their past and could even be a danger to them. How sad that has made me feel.
I am sure there are lessons to be learned here. I suppose the most obvious one is that we don’t always make the same impression on others that they make on us.
Secondly, that maybe women of 60 have bad memories. I wait to be disabused of this notion – please hurry, as I only have 8 years to find out!.
Lastly, that having a good memory can, as I said at the start, sometimes be seen as freakish and something to keep quiet about. In fact, how convenient it must be to simply say, “I don’t remember!”.