Friday, October 30, 2009

The Gift, and Curse of Memory

Lingering sadness, a leftover from yesterday's bitter exchange with family member, reminds me once more of the power of memory over one's sense of being. In this case, memory acts as glue between unpleasant past event, carried over feeling felt right now, and anticipatory thoughts about possible consequences for future. Objectively, sadness no longer belongs to present moment. The event is over. Same with the imagined thoughts.

Contrast that experience with my mother's state of mind. My mother is suffering from Alzheimer's. While her loss of memory is having tragic consequences on her ability to function, it has also enabled my mother to start living in the present. My mother, a chronic worrier, was never able to really enjoy life, which in turn made it very hard for me and my brother to be with her. Last time, I visited her, I noticed all her concerns, about her health, her material possessions, her children, and life in general, all the thoughts that used to poison her existence, were gone. Past no longer existed, and thoughts about the future were faint. Her many regrets about a life lived mostly in frustration, were gone. Only left, was the moment, between her and I. For once, the burden of her anxiety had lifted, and we were both free to enjoy our precious times together.

Memory, it's the glue that perpetuates the illusion of a fixed self, and the much needed cohesiveness for a functioning ego.

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