January 2018

A piece of reading I once encountered describes the experience of daily life as ‘chaos’.

“The artist is comfortable only with going back to the way chaos is first encountered – that is, moment to moment through the senses,” the author stated.

“Then, selecting from that sensual moment-to-moment experience, picking out bits and pieces of it, reshaping it, she recombines it into an object that a reader encounters as if it were experience itself: a record of moment-to-moment sensual experience, an encounter as direct as we have with life itself.

“Only in this way, by shaping and ordering experience into an art object, is the artist able to express her deep intuition of order.”

—Judith Barrington, Writing the Memoir

“Chaos” is pretty much how I would describe my everyday experiences.

To maintain my sanity, I need to control that chaos, while taking into account the state of my memory at the same time.

Besides the chaos of incoming experiences, setting up the tasks that I want to perform each day is always a struggle. Even after I jot down each one that I hope to accomplish, I get stuck while breaking larger chunks into smaller pieces that I can manage. Individual portions slide in and out of my mind as I shift my attention from one to the next; other thoughts that surface during the process often knock bits and pieces into disarray – if not out of my memory altogether.

In any other area of my life, each time I add one or two pieces of new information, recent chunks that I’d just placed tend to slide out. I compensate by stopping every few hours (or sooner) to grab some paper and jot down new impressions, placing relevant bits side by side. Then, when I am able, I move to my computer and type up the important pieces, again arranging them adjacent to one another on the screen, so that I could store them into my memory as a single unit.

On any typical day, I spend several hours throughout the course of each evening, consulting my planners and calendars, digging through memories of my recent activities, experiences, and writing projects, then tediously constructing a list of what I hope to accomplish the following day. Not often do I manage to climb into bed before 11 p.m.

Even that does not ensure my success. Controlling my time continues to prove difficult, if not impossible. Hot and dry weather conditions can wipe out all comfort with my eyesight, so that nothing I try to read sticks in my memory. Muscles in various parts of my body become stiff and sore when I remain in the same position for lengthy periods, and I need to get up from my desk and engage in some physical activity. My parents often come up with errands that they need me to run, which couldn’t be put off. My stomach rumbles, and I look up at the clock to see that it’s lunchtime or dinnertime.

Then, when I return to writing, I find all the bits and pieces of my thoughts scattered again. This can happen up to 4-5 times a day. And frustration prevents me from making any sense of my work.

Over the years, I have learned to be flexible & patient with myself. I still often feel discouraged when I lose track of making any progress in my own life.

Then, one recent morning late last year, when I did manage to plan all of my tasks successfully the previous evening:
I climbed out of bed early, got dressed, and reviewed the list of my own tasks that I’d written up and placed next to my pillow.

I walked into the kitchen, enjoying the stillness of the day, sliced some fresh fruit into a bowl, poured some cereal that I’d recently purchased on top of it, and retrieved a carton of milk from the refrigerator. Hearing my mother’s footsteps behind me, I wished her a cheerful “Good morning!”

Unfortunately, she was in no mood to respond in kind. Eyeing the contents of my bowl, she accused, “Eating that junk again! I told you to throw that out! Why won’t you follow my example and eat healthy oatmeal? Do you want to die early?”

I sighed inwardly. Eating a full bowl of oatmeal often had the effect of causing discomfort and bloating in my stomach. I’d previously explained that to Mom, but she had rejected and dismissed my words, just as she was doing now.

Instead, this time I compromised by filling up half a bowl of oatmeal, then proceeded to scoop a small spoonful of my favorite granola – another recent purchase – to sprinkle on top of it.

“That’s not enough oatmeal,” Mom persisted. “And do you know how much sugar they put into that granola?”

“I’m only using a little bit,” I said. “And this brand that I selected already has the least sugar of all of other brands on the supermarket shelf.”

She wasn’t convinced. “You’re ruining the pureness of our oatmeal! Putting that garbage into your body…”

I relented, and put away my granola to get her to stop complaining.

But Mom wasn’t satisfied. “Throw out that bowl of that toxic cereal!” she ordered. Processed foods! Bad for your body! You’re going to ruin your health!”

I didn’t bother to answer this time. I focused on keeping a smile on my face and sat down to start on my breakfast.

But Mom continued heckling me with protests. “Do you remember how much money your doctor’s appointments cost? Each medication that they prescribe also costs money! What about your last blood test? Your cholesterol was higher than mine! That’s because I eat oatmeal and you love eating that junk…”

I did not bother to point out that her that both of our cholesterol levels were well within the normal range; her HDL was simply a bit higher than mine, while her LDL was somewhat lower. Neither did I try to remind her how the much discomfort and bloating the full bowl of oatmeal I’d recently eaten caused during my subsequent hours at work. She had refused to take me seriously then, and would surely do so again now.

I managed to tune her out and finish all of my preferred breakfast. However, simply fending her off had thrown my memories into disarray. I retrieved the written list of tasks I’d planned for the day, but knew instinctively that the writing that I’d planned to tackle right after breakfast would be impossible to concentrate on.

Instead, I packed my gym bag and made my way down to the garage. Walking on the treadmill at the gym, an activity that did not require much thinking in itself, would help my memories to resurface and allow me to organize them while doing something productive.

On my way to the garage with gym bag
Mom griped – tasks she needed my help with – couldn’t bother me days at work
Now gym – more time away
I stopped to help – broken appliance / bills / groceries
Mom also needed groceries
Dad tagged along – wanted me to take him out to lunch – claimed nothing he liked to eat left in fridge
Griped about my choice of restaurant
Grocery shopping – resisted my instincts – wanted foods that suited his tastes, now mine or Mom’s
His habit: shopping in large quantities
I argued: no place to put the food
Mom won’t eat
He deflected; insisted his way
Spent hundreds of dollars each shopping trip – 2-3 cartfuls
Crammed everything into fridge & kitchen cabinets
I had trouble seeing & remembering my own items already inside
Mom refused to eat,
Accused us of wasting money
Reminded us of old uneaten food just tossed out – had grown moldy
Dad blithely deflected; I fumed that no one in family had effect on him
Scolded me for failing to keep Dad under control

Between the two of them – tore apart my short-term memory
I tried to recall my own tasks; recapture enthusiasm
All my energy worn out; unable to recapture clarity of mind

I had to fight off sense of hopelessness – trouble recalling any meaningful purpose in life

[on notepad file]

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