How’s your memory?

In my twenties, I used to tell friends, “When I am old and can’t remember things, don’t say it is because I am old—I can’t remember things now.”memory-vulnerability-compassion

My memory has never been good. While friends could recall what they ate or wore at a particular occasion, I had nothing. Names and faces would only stick if I had spent an extended period of one-to-one time with someone. Otherwise, I would not remember them.memory-vulnerability-compassionIt could be embarrassing. Once, I approached a speaker at a conference and thanked her for her comments. I approached her as a stranger, but she knew my name. My confusion must have been evident because she added, “I met you at dinner, last night…with Sandra?” She was trying to jog my memory, but I had no recollection, probably because we were in a large group and I did not speak with her one-to-one. But still, I did not recall her from the previous evening—I cringed.

This may not be scientific, but I believe that memory is a muscle and if it is not exercised, it loses its potency. I think of memory the same way I think of biceps; if exercised they stay strong; if unused they sag and are useless.

My memory did not get exercised as a child. Too many things happened that were better forgotten; my mantra became don’t remember. What was the point of remembering things that were too painful or that others would claim did not happen? I learned to let go.

But, I have paid the price, and now that I am old, I worry about what I can’t remember.memory-vulnerability-compassionSometimes it is place names. For example, on my recent visit to Phoenix, I visited Old Town Scottsdale, but later, I could not pull the word Scottsdale from my memory. I could describe the art galleries I visited but not the name of the city.

Usually, though, it is people I can’t recall. I don’t seem able to imprint names and faces in my memory, and that can be embarrassing and worrisome. What if this inability to remember is a symptom of something worse than a sagging memory muscle?

In my defense, since moving to Michigan four years ago, I have met many people—and almost everyone in my life here is new in the past four years. I meet new people every day at work, and that adds up to quite a few new people each week. It can be too much.memory-vulnerability-compassionThe funny thing is that my memory seems to have tons of data stored in it, and I can sometimes access things I did not even know I had retained. That makes me a good team mate for games that require minutiae (think Trivial Pursuit). My brain is also good at puzzles and figuring out mysteries; I can remember and recall clues and make connections others can miss.

I have many skills, gifts and talents, but a good memory is not one of them.


4 thoughts on “How’s your memory?

  1. Lone Grey Squirrel

    I have the very same problem. Names and faces. I usually recognise a face but have no idea where I met them or who they are. I think they all know I avoid using names. Let me know if you find a cure.

  2. Madeline Bialecki Post author

    My “cure” is to be honest and say, “I’m sorry, but I don’t remember your name” or I might say, “I am sorry, but can you tell your name again.” I think it is good for me to make myself vulnerable by admitting this personality trait.

  3. Karen

    I also have this problem, but I can usually remember faces if I have had some interaction with them. The problem I have mostly is with word recall and I feel like the word that I am trying to come up with (whether it’s a name, place, object, etc) is just on the tip of my tongue, which is so frustrating! If it’s an object, I am visualizing it in my brain, but I just can’t come up with the word for it. My forgetfulness does worry me sometimes, but if you think of a brain as a computer, you can certainly understand that there is so much information in there, that it’s entitled to have it’s moments of shutdown.

    Thanks for sharing. It’s nice to hear that others experience the same thing that I do. 🙂

    I know that I owe you a phone call, too!

  4. Madeline Bialecki Post author

    thanks Karen. I like the brain as a computer analogy. With all of the information stored in my brain because I am so old–I might need a new memory card. I will be around this weekend if you want to talk.


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