The memory makers + the memory takers

memory makers and memory takers

Hanging out with one of my best friends in the whole entire world last weekend made me realise something.

I have a terrible memory.

My friend recalls details about my past I have no recollection of. She remembers the details of my 20th birthday – who stayed where and what we did. My memory of the day is sparse.

She remembers every little aspect of our trip to India together. Of when we first met. Of studying together.

I am so grateful to have a friend who also doubles as a memory bank, and only wish I had met her when I was five. Or earlier, preferably.

As I sort through the debris of my memory, there are icons that stand out.

From my childhood, it’s my special imagination olive tree, where I spent days cooped up in its branches. I remember the barren paddocks. The kangaroos on dusk. I remember being followed by our old German Shepard, Sammy, as we walked through the scrub.

Through my adult years, the particularly traumatic, or the particularly emotional moments are the memorable ones. Any occasions coupled with alcohol are vague wisps of something reminiscent of memory.

Memories are so important, aren’t they? Aren’t they – us? We are but a sum of our memories.

I think about this a lot in relation to my kids. What memories are we making for them? Each little day, piled on another day. Those moments, cutting out paper on the kitchen floor, or swinging in the hammock, or playing in the sand…this collection of moments in time. Which ones will stick? Hopefully the good ones?

As I take my phone out to snap a particularly important moment – a lost tooth – for instance, I think about this process of memory keeping. If I take a photo on my phone, am I purchasing insurance for my memory of that moment – or my child’s memory?

When I need to remember something in particular, I write it down. Even if I never read the note again, the act of writing helps commit the memory. Is it the same with taking photos?

Maybe. Maybe not. There are a million photos stacked on my hard drive, and in books, and on my computer. My husband thinks it’s ludicrous. I will never ever get to look at all those photos surely. But I haven’t the heart to delete them. I have to keep them. This bank of memories. It’s much more reliable than my own sieve.

I wonder sometimes whether the act of taking the photo itself diminishes my ability to simply remember the moment.

When we travelled when Elka was about two, I was walking back down the mountain, and she was running towards me. The joy on her face, and the childish enthusiasm of her run made me want to snap a picture. I did. And she immediately turned on her heel, and ran away from me. It was like popping a bubble. The moment evaporated with the click of my camera.

Lately, I find my memory’s worse than usual. And the reason why is obvious. There is so so much to remember.

I don’t mean commitments, or appointments etc. I remember those things quite easily.

I am busy, yes, with preparing for the launch of my book, and the other things on my plate. But it’s more than that.

We are flooded constantly with potential stimulus for memory. Each time I scroll through social media, the list of things I could potentially remember exponentially grows. And grows.

Trawling social media feels a little like using a metal detector on the beach. We look and look, and wait for something to stick. And at last the beep goes off, and that particularly cute image of a cat wearing glasses glues.

And the minefield of visual information is competing with the actual stuff in my life I should be remembering.

Like that wonderfully cute and hilarious thing Rosie said the other day. What was it again, that made us crack up so much? I have no idea. I swear to myself I need to write those comments and quotes down when they happen – not later, because later they are definitely forgotten.

I wonder what all these images, and all this information will do to our collective future memory. Will it be sharper, as we expose ourselves to more? Or will it diminish, as we rely more and more on technologies to remember things for us? {Phone numbers. Calendar dates. Passwords…} Maybe there’s just not enough space in our tiny human brains to handle the vast amount of material coming our way.

So, this week, I am conscious about where I place my attention. I am going to aim to place it carefully on things that matter. Precious moments with my children. A beautiful children’s book. I am going to gaze into that moment, and let it gel. Then, when it has settled, I’ll break my gaze and carry on.

And I really should remember to write that stuff down. And take a photo.

How’s your memory? And how do you make it better?

Regrets, I’ve had a few :: How we manage our regrets

regrets i've had a few, frank sinatra

In the days before becoming a parent, it felt like every second decision was regret-worthy.

Why did I leave that school? Why didn’t I take that job in Spain? Why didn’t I spend more time planning my wedding? Why didn’t I include my close friends in my bridal party? Why didn’t I travel more with my husband?

Blah blah blah. Boring, first-world regrets.

They were the kinds of thoughts that kept me up at night, going around and round my head like a merry-go-round.

And then I became a parent.

Regrets like those no longer have a place in my mind because had I done my year in Europe differently; had I travelled more before having kids; had I stayed at the same school – the whole course of my life would be different, and I wouldn’t have the two little snugglets in particular that I have today.

And that is a thought that doesn’t even bear thinking.

These days, I have a different kind of regret. It’s not focused on vacuous life decisions, but on the tiny decisions that happen through the day. Like parking before the sleepy toddler fell asleep only to completely stuff her sleep pattern for the day. Or taking the kids out to a local music concert, knowing it would wreck them for the rest of the weekend. Or getting frustrated at my baby because she is crying, instead of sleeping.

Somehow, these little slip-ups are so easy to regret. And it’s not really a merry-go-round anymore, but a layering effect, where one regret slaps on top of the other and if you had to excavate the mind of a mother, you’d find endless strata of regret sediment down there.

But aren’t these just as pointless as the big, vacuous regrets – these little hiccups that cause so much unnecessary worry?

I liked this thing I read in Womankind {new favourite magazine} that was about taking perspective. Every time something bad occurs, or you feel bad about something, drift upwards and take a bird’s eye view of the situation.

See yourself, with your little one, and whoever else is around. Then zoom out again. Look at your house. Your neighbour’s house. Zoom out. Look down on the town you live in. Keep going. Imagine the countryside around you, then the outline of your state – your country. And then you are so far above your problem, you see the whole world.

You and your tiny little issue are just a speck in the proverbial mass of other people’s existences and problems.

I think regrets have a tiny purpose; and that is they help us stay on course. Regrets mean we wish we could have done something differently. Which is equal to wishing we could do something differently in the future.

And though we might not rectify all wrongs {if they even are such terrible wrongs in the first place}, at least we try to. And maybe the ‘wrongs’ get lesser as we more further through our journey.

What’s your relationship with regret? Maybe you have got it way more sorted than me! Hope you have a lovely, relatively regret-less day.

Linking with Essentially Jess.

A privilege to mow

Carli Lidonnici from Tiny Savages wrote a beautiful piece last week – “I Like To Mow”.

I have been thinking a lot of grass lately. This post brought my thoughts to the surface.

It’s hard not to think about grass, or mowing, when you look at grass like ours. It’s like the old man with nostril hairs you can’t not look at when he talks; our grass has been coming out of all orifices.

Our veggie patch has been more grass than veggie.

Grass has swept into every so-called garden bed, and grown taller than any plant.

With wild wet weather, there has been little opportunity to mow.

But that can’t just be it, can it? Almost every other house in our village keeps their grass like a number one crew cut. How do they get it so damn neat?

Walking round our estate, it’s hard to imagine who keeps such lawns. Houses are shut up. People are at work. Children at school. No longer just an older person’s community, these houses are homes to families. But families are not home.

Who mows the grass?

We aren’t the only house in the village with un-neat lawn. There are a few houses, and they all happen to be houses of people I know. Surprisingly (or not), people with young children.

Carli writes that her love of mowing comes from a place of privilege – of owning a good lawnmower and having a small lawn. There is privilege, too, in having time.

It’s hard to articulate to others where the time goes once young children are on the scene. I know it looks easy – is easy, and enjoyable, and sunshine (mostly) – but it’s so time consuming. Seriously, at some point it becomes a privilege to pee.

And when you weave in renovations and full-time work, having time to mow the lawn between thunderstorms is like squeezing water from a carrot. It ain’t happening.

Today my lawn was backyard blitzed. My aunt and uncle, in town for but a weekend, with my parents blitzed every square inch of my tufty old lawn. The veggie patch – more a patch of tall grass, was blitzed. The herb garden was born again. My neighbours audibly breathed a sigh of relief. So did everyone who ever had to look at our lawn.

There is much to be said about a bunch of lovely people coming in on their own accord and conducting a blitz. They could see we have been inundated to the eyeballs, and had the heart to lend a brushcutting arm.

I would genuinely like to mow more – scratch that, like my husband to mow more.  But I would also like him to spend our only hour together a day sitting down, having dinner with us, before the bedtime rush begins.

One day we will be retired and our children will be grown-up, and we will keep on top of the north coast weedfest. We may even be able to weed and mow for our daughters. Until then, thank you to my blitzers, and sorry to those who have to endure our long grass.

Linking with Essentially Jess, because I wrote this blog on a Tuesday.

A crazed cutlery drawer and a mountain

Not my mind

Not my mind

My cutlery drawer says a lot about my life.

Few people could live with a drawer like mine. But for me, it’s OK. Cutlery gets dumped in. Cutlery gets taken out, when needed. There is no system. No order. It doesn’t look terribly good. But it’s functional. And it saves time – microseconds of time – but all those microseconds add up. And if there is one thing I am thrifty about, it’s time.

I save up every microsecond and put it where it counts.

That’s how I get it all done. Two girls, living in chaos, writing 100 – 150 page books each month, blogging, socialising…all those scrupulously saved microseconds go where they ought to go.

I think, the secret to living with furniture piled up to the ceiling, dump-and-run cutlery drawers, and knee-high grass, is a quiet mind.

Occasionally it pangs. Like the day we returned home and the furniture, the grass and the still-to-be-written 150 page book began to seep into the crevices of my mind, munch at its happy, calm corners until happy and calm were out, and chaos and overwhelmed-ness were in.

The Mountain

The other night, a group of women sat beside the lake, with candles and thermoses of tea. The moon was nearly full, its reflection on the water’s silky surface. It was very Witches of Eastwick. One of the ladies read aloud a card about the Mountain Mother. Standing still, in the present moment, her head in the clouds, but grounded. Life and children happen, but she is still and resilient.

I used the mountain metaphor in my less happy, calm years. I visualised being a mountain, as seasons passed, clouds passed, the sky changed colour and the wind blew. Reflecting on it all. Being present. Grounded.

It helped me get out of my head.

My head was no longer like my cutlery drawer.

My cutlery drawer

While I am mountain, and my head is clear, I can have a drawer, like my cutlery drawer. I can have a million books to write, and a 3-year-old like a crazed tornado high on sugar (that’s no metaphor), and a baby, and a house where you negotiate stacked chairs and boxes to get to the kitchen.

If I let the chaos creep in though, I become a little like that crazed 3-year-old, and it all comes crashing down. Let’s not go there.

What part of your house most describes you?

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Linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT.

Learning to dance in the rain

“Achieving happiness is not the main purpose in life,” said Gregor one night, driving home from Brisbane. My brother, who was behind the wheel, nearly went off the road.

“What?” he cried, “That’s ridiculous! Of course happiness is life’s ultimate goal.”

Like Gregor, I am unsure that that is true. The pressure to achieve happiness is the cause of much unhappiness. We look around us, at our neighbours, our Facebook friends and see faces a-smiling. We hear about wonderful jobs and exciting travels. We see beautiful houses. We see happiness all around us, and crave what they have. We crave the happiness they have, and wonder why we can’t feel what they feel.

Life’s ultimate goal is to get by, and to learn to live with pain.

rocky

Rocky landscape to rolling hills

From the age of 12 until I was about 20, my life was either happy or painful. There was an internal switch, which flipped between awesome mode and torture. Life was summit or life was the depths of the pit. It was exhausting. And down in the pit, I looked to the sunny sky above me – that’s where I wanted to be. That was life. Where I stood was death. Happiness was my ultimate goal and would drag me from the depths.

Once again, on the summit, I feared falling. I knew darkness, and I didn’t want to go there. I wanted endless days of sunshine.

There was a girl at college with me; a gentle, calm soul. Every morning I asked her how she was, and she replied, “Not bad.” Not bad. What was that? It was such a strange idea. Not bad. How can someone be not bad? Life was either sunshine or darkness.

So, I aspired to not bad, eager to know the secret to this calm and gentle soul. I practiced. I mastered. Day after day, I wandered from the rocky landscape to soft, green rolling hills. There were inclines and declines. Soft clouds, occasionally grey and heavy, floated by. But it was not the exhausting rocky landscape I once climbed.

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

These thoughts have been in my mind recently. As chance would have it, one of my favourite writers from Enjoy Life For Once shared a post to this exact effect. Jennifer was writing about the pressures of happiness, and the destructiveness of such pressure. As always, her post is not only reflective, it is uplifting. She writes about how to embrace the crevices of our life; of ourselves.

She writes about knowing yourself. If you know that dishes are frustrating and upsetting, know that even if the dishes were made of precious materials, you would still find dishes frustrating and upsetting.

Jennifer writes about learning to dance in the rain.

If we know our declines, our dishes – if we acknowledge – we can learn to include these parts into our life. We no longer edit them out. Leave them at the door. We instead welcome them in, nod towards them, thank them for being there and know they will help us grow as humans. In doing so, our pits of despair become a meandering decline, which we know will at some point become either flat, or will incline once more towards the sunshine and the soft, green grass at the top of the hill. A gentle meander up, and down.

How does this relate to our children?

We, as parents, are creating a template for our child. They are who they are, and will be who they will be, with their own journey. But we are laying down the foundations for them to build upon.

By embracing negative parts of ourselves, we show our children that it is OK to do so. We demonstrate to our children that pain is part of life, and we can help them move through it.

A child’s pain is a mother’s greatest sadness.

Watching our children suffer is painful. We long to help them and take their pain away. Unfortunately, apart from kissing it better, so often it is impossible to take the pain away. But we can show our children how to accept pain and suffering as part of our life. We can show them that it is not scary, and that even though we feel pain in this moment, we will soon feel better.

If we fight in front of our children, we can show them how we make up.

If we lose our temper, and yell, we can become vulnerable and reveal our pain for our children to see. Apologise and acknowledge our feeling. Acknowledge how our children feel when we yell.

If we need to cry, we can cry in front of our children. Our children learn that a smile soon follows, and that even mummies cry.

As parents, we can accept all shades of ourselves and our experiences. We can show our children that pain is a part of life and that dancing in the rain is a beautiful thing to do and will help us grow.

Please join me for Heart Monday. Share your heart story of the week here. 

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Linking with With Some Grace for FYBF.

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