In December I signed up for an online group for women writers. The topic was “Before 2020;” we were to write a post about our life for each year during the last decade, beginning with 2010. What a great concept, I thought! Select one year and replay it—from a distance.
I didn’t write the first day, as I wasn’t entirely certain I totally “got it”…so I just lurked. The posts were eloquent, honest and revealing. The writers penned stories of emotional challenges, joys, sorrows and defeats. I was inspired and eager to write my first piece…then my inspiration withered. How did I think I could write about my life during the year of 2010, when I have trouble remembering what happened yesterday?
Slumped in front of my computer, I considered backing out, but my ego was too big to admit defeat (especially since my daughter and a few friends were already posting, and had encouraged and convinced me to sign up). The only way I felt I could participate in the process was to go back and read my journal entries from the designated year. But this made me hesitate; I’ve been an honest and truthful writer—sometimes brutally so. Consequently, I have rarely reread any of my entries. The idea of revisiting my stream-of-consciousness processing, the chaotic mess before integration and resolution, holds little appeal.
But to participate in this process, I didn’t see any other way other than to go back into my journals.
After posting four times, I stopped. It was just too painful to continue excavating journal entries in order to participate. Though I wrote of happy memories and occasions like birthdays, holiday gatherings, the cute antics of the grandchildren, I also wrote of sorrows: the death of my grandson and my mom, estrangement with my brother and sister-in-law, and my sadness being so far away from my children and their families. Even as early as 2010, I wrote of my memory lapses and the tumultuous emotional reactions I was experiencing as a result. I continued over the years to describe my fading as “losing my mind, along with losing ‘me.’” I revisited my futile efforts to hide my symptoms, which continued to increase.
After reading years of mostly forgotten memories, I was exhausted and depressed. I finally quit posting on the group site.
Now more than a month later, and after much reflection, I realize this experience was a blessing. It helped me recognize there is true grace in letting memories remain quietly in the past; or perhaps better said: “to be gone from me.” Because in doing so I can remain more calm and serene—even at times peaceful.
At this stage of my condition, I’ve come to realize I often don’t want to be reminded of some events, especially memories that trigger negative emotions. I’m more and more content with letting past happenings remain in the past.
Now I want to be perfectly clear; memory loss and cognitive decline is a frustrating, embarrassing, challenging and humiliating, disorder. It can cause me to feel very angry or very sorry for myself. I often take out my frustration and anger on Keith—then regret my actions. But more and more I realize my desire to retrieve the past is fading. Not only does it take too much effort to retrieve memories, but I see no benefit to be reminded of losses.
Instead I’m trying my best to focus on blessings: quiet days full of the gift of options. Being a slug in front of the TV if that feels right, or watching the birds compete to be first at the feeders. Witnessing the beauty of a storm forming or listening to the purring of our new kitten as I run my fingers down her silky coat. Sharing Sunday dinners with my family and welcoming friends who honor me with their presence.
I’ve moved into a place of being grateful for the gift of time—to release and reflect. To honor my body and spirit. To be present.
I’ll close with this quote from an unknown author: “When I asked for all things, so that I might enjoy life, I was given life, so that I might enjoy all things.”