Thursday, August 19, 2010

Memory is a Mysterious Thing

Some nights, as I put my head on my pillow, I feel that I've forgotten more in my day than remembered. With many demands on my time and mind, I seem unequal to the task of remembering everything and everyone.

I use the usual tools; notebooks and calendars primarily. But I know that, when my commitments become too many, a certain amount of information tends to go 'whoosh'; straight over my head instead of into my brain where it belongs.

As things come up that require my attention and I schedule them or do some preliminary action required, I check off the virtual to do list. Then I no longer think of the matter. Sales reps often show up in the shop with appointments I've made and then promptly forgotten about (because I've forgotten to look at my calendar that day).

I also seem to remember fewer of the small details people share with me. It's true, they usually return quickly once a discussion is continued but I often feel remiss in not being the one who brings up a previous point of importance to them.

Lately, I've begun to wish that my brain was more like a computer; able to store away and then pull up entire files of information at the push of a key. How convenient to be able to parcel out the minutes of our day, confident in the knowledge that what we need to remember will be there as and when we need it. No scrambling for the proper paperwork. No arriving after guests. No falling asleep with last minute thoughts of what didn't get done rambling about in our brains.

Of course I do realize that what has to get done always does. I have always believed that what doesn't get done was not as important or it would have had higher priority on the list and not been neglected. But I wonder - is the capacity of my mental 'list' shrinking over time?

Perhaps it's time that I develop some new and clearer habits for remembering than what has been working for me in the past. String on my finger is no longer doing the trick.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Look me in the Eye

I can't help but think that we are doing our kids a disservice by outfitting them with cell phones; blackberries and the "i" of the week. I say this because I recognize the many ways other people touch my life once simple eye contact has been made.

Looking someone in the eyes with a greeting of "Good morning" has led to new friendships; new customers (in my case); interesting stories; and a feeling of rightness in my community. The many people I pass on my morning walk, for instance, help me to feel connected. Whether we share a quick greeting or take the time to stop and chat, these people add context to my life.

I was raised in a large city and knew by instinct that I shouldn't make eye contact in elevators or at bus stops. It took a few years into adulthood, and living in a few small towns, to change that practice and I've never looked back. The people I meet and have random chats with add so much to my life, whether I see them daily, or once and never again.

I remember one day in the spring passing a group of young people waiting for their school bus. They were 14-17 years old and stood individually around the corner, each with their eyes on their electronics. Their postures said volumes but their silence said much more. If our teenagers aren't even connecting casually with each other, what will they miss in life? They seem to find a one-liner text from a friend more compelling than a live body standing beside them.

When I pass a young person on the street, I now greet them. Some are comfortable responding in kind; others shrink into themselves. Perhaps they'll share stories about the crazy lady who speaks to them. Maybe they'll pass on the greeting to the next person they meet.