Back from memory lane

Back from the long trip…

I was away this past weekend, visiting family and old friends from years gone by. It was quite a trip — 7 hours of driving on Friday night after work, all-day reunion activities with family and friends I knew from early school days, on Saturday, and then another 8 hours of driving and a visit to an old (once good) friend I have not seen for over 20 years.

I got home about midnight last night, and I’m pretty wiped out. But it was a good trip.

I held it together. And more. It actually turned out a lot better than I was expecting. It was challenging, but not only did I hold it together but I was also involved and engaged and I had a pretty good time.

The past few months have been extremely challenging with a lot of self-doubt rattlin’ ’round in my head, but going to visit family and friends was a good reminder that I am on the right track and even though I do have my issues, and I have been struggling with a lot, I’m still doing pretty well, all things considered.

There’s nothing like reconnecting with people whose lives are… well… complicated, to make me appreciate my own situation.

What a trip… I had more people asking me if I remembered such-and-such, than I’ve had in a long time. It was a little disheartening, at first, because there were things that they clearly remembered very well, but I had no recollection of them. A lot of those past years — elementary school, high school — are very sketchy and patchy for me. There are huge holes in what I can remember, possibly because I had a number of mild TBIs throughout my childhood, and also because I had a lot of environmental sensitivities, so if there was a lot of noise and commotion and activity going on around me, I was usually in self-protect mode. I was more focused on keeping myself from freaking out, than really experiencing and remembering what was going on around me.

I know I was involved in a lot of things when I was in high school, especially. I just can’t remember a lot that other people were reminiscing about.

Memory is a funny thing. People seem to think that’s what makes us who and what we are. Like, if you can’t remember things, you don’t have a personality or a way to relate to the world around you. My parents tend to treat me like a retard, when they ask me if I can remember such-and-such, and I can’t (that happens a lot). It doesn’t mean I’m developmentally delayed. It just means I can’t remember sh*t.

Oh, well. The thing is — and I now have a theory about this — the people who seem to remember most from the past, are the ones who seem least happy and most worn by time. It’s like all those memories make them who they are, the weight of them just pulls them down. All those memories seem to put miles on them — I think it’s also because they get “locked” into a certain recollection about what happened, and what it meant, and those things aren’t always good. So, they have all those old burdens of bad (or just unpleasant) memories that hold them down.

I, on the other hand, do not have that problem. Sometimes I can’t even remember where I am, which freaks some people out. But I’m always confident that if I just keep going, I will eventually remember what the deal is, where I am, and what I’m supposed to be doing. And I do. I just keep going, and it works for me.

Of course, it all gets more difficult if I am tired — which is fairly often — but I manage to get through somehow.

This all brings up an interesting question — do our memories make us who we are? Are the events of our lives the primary building blocks of our identities, or might there be something more? I know that because of my sensory issues, I have to stay pretty “present” in order to function – I need to track my light and noise sensitivities, and I have to work harder than some, in order to keep my attention on what’s in front of me. So things that are not right in front of me or not part of my immediate world don’t always have any meaning or reality for me — right here, right now… that’s what matters and affects me.

As for memories — mine are so “Swiss-cheesey” that if memories are the primary part of who and what we are, then there’s not much to me. At least, not reliably.

But that can’t possibly be, because I’m a complete person, able to live fully in this world, relate to others, relate to my world, do and contribute useful things… I’m a whole person, even with a fragmented memory.

So, the apparent assumption by my family and friends that memories are a big part of who you are and what you’re all about… well, that can’t be 100% true.

I do get that memories are important “social glue” that joins people in common understandings of the world. But at the same time, there’s plenty of other things that join us together. I ended up having dinner with a bunch of people I almost never interacted with when I was younger, and it was perfectly fine. It took a bit of work for us to find common ground we could talk about, but we found it, and that was that.

On the other hand, some of the folks I shared the most history with, didn’t actually have much to contribute to our present conversations. That was disappointing, because I was hoping that we could reconnect and still have good conversations. But they’ve moved on, as have I, and our lives are so very different now, there’s almost no point in keeping in touch. We will, of course, because people I have nothing in common with are a regular part of my life, but still… it’s something to think about.

All in all, I have to say the weekend was a pretty awesome success. It was exhausting and a little disappointing and painful at times, but the bottom line is, I didn’t wreck my car, I did everything I said I would, and although I got lost on the last leg of my journey and tacked another hour onto my drive time, it only happened once, so all in all it was a good time. And anyway, that extra hour gave me the chance to look at more great scenery, so it wasn’t all bad.

Now I’m back home, getting back to my routine, checking in with my spouse, and getting some rest. Work is annoying, and I haven’t heard back from the recruiters I’ve been talking to, and who knows when I’ll be able to line up another job. But for today, I’m healthy and happy — and that’s good enough for me.

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Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

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