I had two spectacular memory dumps this week, both on Tuesday. I posted the reading assignment on the American Lit blog on Friday, where I told the students I'd post some notes onto blackboard the next day and promptly forgot (so I guess, technically, that wasn't Tuesday), and the students asked about it Tuesday. I had to look at the post and read it. While I clearly wrote I'd do that and I do remember putting the post up, I don't remember that portion. I suspect I changed my mind and decided to hand it out, and then promptly forgot the prior post, or that it never made it into long term memory in the first place. So, for me, it's as if it never happened.
Later Tuesday, when I was rushing through the other college campus on my way to my mailbox, I ran into a student from last semester. We struck up a conversation and I realized this morning that I completely mistook the student for another student, so my part of the conversation must have been extremely odd. Oops. At least I realized it this morning, right? Only two and a half days later. I had expressed to the former student, though, that the semester had me a bit frazzled, and I suspect the student walked out nodding, yup frazzled and then some. Sigh. While I can laugh at this and have been, it also adds to my jumbled thoughts and those pinching worries.
Memories are how we define who we are, where we've been. They are the sum of our experiences, and it is disconcerting when memory fails us. Even when we know how malleable it is, how fallible it is, what it takes to get into long term memory, all of the nice, sciency details, it still makes the heart ache, the chest constrict, the worries pinch at us. I don't mind feeling the fool overly much, and it's a running gag that the me today often wonders what the me last weekend was thinking as I devised assignments, lesson plans, power points.
I don't want to say I'm overwhelmed, because well, I don't think that's fair, and I think, to some degree that's a choice. I can handle this, so I'm not overwhelmed. I am, however, at capacity. I think that's safe to say. On a slow day, I'm going a million miles a minute; my obsessions topics of interests teeter precariously on the bookcases, table, and floor, and in my mind, and there are a hundred things I want to read, to write about, to incorporate into my classes. On these busier days, I could almost believe I have attention deficit disorder as my thoughts are jumbled and trip over each other. It's a busy beehive in my mind, and I can get distracted with the mental imagery of my mind being a hive and bees busily buzzing and depositing pollen to honey combs, and I'm lost for a moment, grinning at the mental imagery.
My sleep is also as busy as my waking hours. One morning this week, I awoke tired from having helped Brian Dunning collect soda cans (Sierra Mist to be precise) to raise money for his inFact video series. If that doesn't demonstrate the depth of my commitment to his work that it's entered my dreams, I don't know what does. I kidded with my students that Michael Shermer, random patterns, and picking up dead birds while screaming "it's not a cluster; there's no pattern!" can't be far behind in my dreams.
As if a faulty memory making me look frazzled and confused or at the very least dubious about what the me of last weekend thought would be grand to cover isn't bad enough, as if my beehive busy mind fancifully dreaming of helping skeptics carry forward their message of critical thinking and rational thought weren't enough, there are the worries that pinch at me, worries over my kids, how to handle one's increasing obsessive thoughts and anxiety, her hypersensitivity, the other's spaciness and recalcitrance, and the oldest's ability to work both girls into screaming, crying messes over inconsequential matters. My chest tightens, my own anxiety increases, and I am left with a bundle of questions with no ready or easy answers, not when it comes to matters of teaching, of reaching my students, or of parenting, of safeguarding my children. I am left with probabilities and uncertainties, and I am reminded again of how hard it is to live in the midst of chaos and random patterns, and how comforting it must be to believe in absolutes and certainties. I can't trade the one for the other, as I would much rather see the world imperfectly but soundly than trade in fairy tales. But it is often a lonely road where the awareness that you just might be making a colossal mess of things despite your best intentions threatens to cripple you and leaves you tottering and looking longingly at other paths. Dr Phil asks, never realizing he proves his question wrong, do you want to be right or do you want to be happy, to which I must reply, both. Being right is being happy. Isn't that obvious? Isn't that part of the problem?
Even if we're wrong, we think we're right and as long as we have that moral certainty that we're right and they're wrong, then we can be happy. Short of that, well, we're a mess of jumbled thoughts, pinching worries, and potentially failing memories that simply add to the depth of the first two. We are an endless loop of random patterns weaving our way through this world attempting to impose order through the careful collection of Sierra Mist cans.