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?

The art of sharing

the art of sharing

Shareaholic. I don’t like that word. Maybe it’s because I share a lot on social media, and I feel like this word implies I might have a serious problem if I do this.

Facebook, Instagram – social media in general – have really opened up our social worlds, haven’t they? For good and bad. I like it sometimes. And I am drawn to it a lot.

But I do like to share.

If anything, I hold back on my sharing. Sometimes, a thought or idea pops into my head, and automatically I think ‘status update!’ But then I re-think, and decide I don’t want to overwhelm people, or be considered an over-sharer.

Rather than just accepting I am a shareaholic and be done with it, I like to think about why I like sharing so much. These are some thoughts I had.

1. I am a social person

My first memory involves making friends. All strong memories have something to do with friends. I like people. I enjoy listening, collaborating and sharing with people. I do. I like the feedback I get from people when I share things. And I am not just talking about the digital kind of sharing. I like people, even in real life.

2. I feel like someone or other might benefit from this

When I have a thought I deem share-worthy, I think, ‘Who will benefit from this?’ Will my mother-in-law in Austria enjoy seeing this photo of her grandchildren? Will my mum be interested in this? Will someone enjoy doing this particular craft project, or reading this particular book to their children? Will this idea resonate with someone, somewhere out there?

If I think, ‘Yes – yes, I think someone will benefit,’ then I share.

 

3. Sharing is my reflection

I was given a diary for my seventh birthday. I told my diary all about my birthday party, the fights my brother and I had, and about what I loved about school. I kept a diary until I was about twenty – then I gave up. It was too depressing – going over and over my thoughts. Rejigging them. Overanalysing situations. Making myself crazy. Giving up was good for me.

But I turned my need to share onto people. And then eventually onto the blog, and social media. Sharing was/is a healthy way for me to vent. As I write, my thoughts unravel, then crystallise, and look somehow more beautiful than the tangle that existed in my head.

4. Sharing is permanence

I think the main reason I share on social media and the blog though is to give a certain permanence to my existence. I have a feeling that if something happens, or a particular child says something sweet, or I have a particularly interesting thought, I need to cement it in words – not just myself, but for others.

Because if someone else heard it, then it somehow becomes more real.

Does that make sense?

Maybe I am an ‘oversharer’ or a ‘shareaholic’ for the same reasons that a person makes art. Or someone writes a book. There’s a sense of legacy if someone else can appreciate, or at least hear our ideas in some way.

Anyway, I am reclaiming the name sharer. I am a sharer. Not an oversharer. Or a shareaholic. From my perspective at least, sharing is a positive thing. As long as what I share is positive. And I try to do that.

Are you a ‘sharer’? Why do you enjoy sharing? Or not sharing?

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.

Intimacy and blogging

blogging and intimacy

Blogging and social media has surely changed so much of how we relate to one another. Here we are, cup of tea in reach, reading the intimate details of each other’s lives. Some write about weaning their children, others about school drop offs, some write about struggles with mental health, others about traumas of their youth

Reading the beautiful Foxs Lane blog recently, it struck me just how much its author, Kate Ulman, gives her readers. We get an intimate insight into her life on the organic farm, her country, wholesome living. We feel like we know her beautiful daughters. (I found this post particularly beautiful.)

I’ve often questioned how much about my own life I want to share here on the blog. In early days, I felt I could share it all. I put up pictures of family, of my kids, and talked about the songs we sung, or the fights we had. It was liberating, and was a platform for connection. People wrote to say how much they appreciated reading my words.

Someone once wrote to thank me for my insight into parenthood, as it made her feel less nervous about her pregnancy.

Somewhere along the line though, my personal sharing goal posts moved. Although I love taking pictures of my girls, and am proud of how beautiful they are, I am more conscious of sharing them publicly. I guess I wonder about the lasting imprint of these images, and where they may potentially end up. Sometimes, of course, I can’t resist. Or the photo is a perfect illustration for one of my sunshine stories.

My sunshine stories themselves are less shared these days, and I am more conscious about the people I am writing about. I question my ownership of their stories.

The point is, the sharing goal posts are personal. Many bloggers I know and respect participate in Jodi Wilson’s The 52 Projectwhich is a weekly documentation of childhood. Some use pseudonyms for themselves and/or their children. Others, Eden Riley, for example, lay their souls bare, and couldn’t be more raw if they tried.

I admire that. And am grateful that souls have the strength and the courage to bare so much of themselves and their lives, which is particularly positive to human connection in terms of how we understand each other, and other’s experience of things like mental health, or parenthood.

Occasionally the interweb heats up with debates about over-sharing, but I wonder if that particular discussion applies at all when talking about personal blogs. Personal blogs are sharing, yes, but I see this as a positive direction our society has taken. Our adulteries, lies and secrets – the dark fragments of our humanity – are brought out from the cellar, into the sunshine, and we learn so much more about who we are as human, and who each other are.

Of course, the one time in the last month I switched on the radio, they happened to be talking about this very issue. Brene Brown, who many of you are familiar with, was being interviewed about embracing vulnerability. I caught these words before they trailed into the ether:

Vulnerability is an honest, raw bid for connection... If we are going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is the path.

So, I would like to say that whether you share pictures of your children or not, whether you use real names or not, whether you are taking photos of your daily outfit, or photos of your pet, or sharing books you read to your children, you’re all contributing in a positive way to our human connection.

And that can only be a good thing.

How do you feel about the intimate portrayal of personal lives in blogs and on social media?

For more tales from the sunshine house, visit me over at Facebook. You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter, where I occasionally run giveaways for subscribers, and update you with the latest sunshine news.

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.

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