Posted on | May 5, 2010 | 1 Comment
“She greets us as we enter the world; she is with us when we leave it. She is never more than a second away from us, as close as our own heartbeat; but when she does not stand directly before us, we cannot recall her face.
When she calls, loud and clear, we drop whatever we are doing and attend to her needs alone. At the touch of her hand we forget work, friends and lovers. She is the mistress of the universe. She is pain”
I first read Trader’s World by Charles Sheffield when I was about 14 or 15 and for some reason I memorised this passage so well that nearly 20 years later I still recall it.
..I guess a psychiatrist would have a field day with that revelation.
But isn’t it strange the way our memories work? How a smell, sound or an image can trigger them. The thing I find most strange is why are the unpleasant memories so much easier to trigger than the happy/ fun ones?
This is something that’s been playing on my mind a lot recently because whenever I have an ME/CFS flare up/ relapse or whatever you want to call it, those unpleasant memories boil to the surface at the slightest provocation. If this were me writing as I would 4 or 5 years ago I’d probably describe some of those memories to you in quite some detail; but I’ve learned a lot in those 4 or 5 years about the internet and over sharing so those memories can stay in my head for now.
But it’s not only personal memories that we seem to have little control over, I have tried for years to learn musical theory – I own (and have read) at least 5 books on the subject, had several friends try and explain it to me and through the patience of one of those friends (who drilled me endlessly) learned it well enough to pass the entrance test to a music degree course. ..But within days of doing that test I was back to not understanding a note on the page.
Some things you don’t learn or remember without constant drilling on the subject; other things you soak up like a thirsty sponge, but either way it seems to be some kind of luck as to whether it sticks or not.
I memorised hundreds of things when I was at school, and later on at college – but of all those things; soliloquies, poems, songs, technical information, it never seems to be the useful stuff that I recall. Which is a real shame because if I could recall everything I’d ever read or made a concious effort to learn then would. I. ever. be a force to be reckoned with!
Song lyrics I have no trouble with (well, songs I learned pre-CFS that is) At one point I knew so many songs that my peers nicknamed me ‘jukebox’ and would test me by throwing song titles at me and have me sing a verse/ chorus for them – if someone was trying to think of a song they’d tell me a line and I’d sing it back to them so they could remember; that was my ‘special talent’ I guess.
My interest is the web but my passion is creating things; jewellery, lyrics, website designs and content – I generate ideas for things on a daily basis that I have to put aside through lack of time/ energy or materials until some unforeseen future date..
..my worst fear is that I’ll never have the time, energy or materials for that future date to arrive.
It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with this year, I had to defer all of semester A which has in turn forced me to defer Semester B until next year – my year tutor made the observation that I would have been better suited to part time study but it just seemed like the wrong path to take at the time.
I’m struggling with exams especially; having next to no short term memory is bad enough but then having to deal with the demands of motherhood and family life, seemingly never ending episodes of fatigue and illness on top while attempting to cram technical information into a mind that seems hell bent on it going in one ear to travel straight back out through the other..
I keep reading, making notes, re-reading and it’s like every time is the first time I take in the information. It’s not so bad doing coursework because I know where I need to look to find my answers, but a test of memory – especially a 3 hour long test of memory (or 4 hours in my case as I get extra time due to the illness thing) trying to find the little hooks, the triggers that will allow me to pull those answers from thin air – that’s the trick really.
I have to remember the quality of light coming through the window during a lecture to hear Guys voice in my head explaining the property in question, I need to hear the clatter of the canteen to picture the page I was reading about the description of such and such an effect. I have to be able to picture step by step the process used in a program to explain my reasoning – sometimes you can’t do that without the program in front of you; which is why I hate closed book exams with a passion.
In the real world I have all of these props to hand to help me trigger the flash of inspiration/ the required memory, in a closed book exam I have only my mind; the seemingly inaccessible hard drive with the faulty connectors that get even more faulty as the stress levels rise.
..and trust me, they are constantly rising.