Losing One of My Superpowers: Not of Like Mind

Day139, Solar Powered by The Flooz.

Photo by theflooz; creative commons license

I am losing one of my super powers, and I’m deeply disturbed by this.  It’s been gone for a little over a year, so it’s unlikely I’ll get it back.

It has to do with the way my brain is wired, and it’s almost always been that anyone who knows about this secret power of mine will not understand and will unleash some weird combination of anger, envy, and annoyance at me, which can be a super power all on its own.  I’ve known very, very few people with the same internal wiring.  The last one kept rolling his eyes at me and reminding me, “I know–you told me.”  And I was surprised every time–not that I’d told him some information between minutia and life-threatening, but that he remembered that I’d told him.  With most of this planet’s inhabitants, I’ve had to repeat myself multiple times, particularly when it comes to ex-husbands.

But that’s what this super power is all about:  my very odd memory.  I’d thought it was just my surreal memory of calendar dates and events.  (Guy:  “Lorna!  I haven’t seen you in months!”  Me:  “Yes, it was the fourth day of September, about 10:30 that night….”  Guy:  “Huh? Geez, are you a stalker or something?  That’s creepy!”) But I’ve now come to realize just how different my memory has been all these years, now that I’ve lost certain aspects of it.

I know exactly when this superpower started to fade.  I was crouched in my office, on the floor, hoping someone would return soon and take me to the emergency room.  I was having heart palpitations and trouble breathing.  My brain went foggy for a  while.  The cardiologist who ran a bazillion tests later diagnosed me as completely healthy–as long as I stayed off the caffeine mega-doses. (Caffeine equals kryptonite.)  I bid my sweet teas and sodas farewell, and felt wonderful, but the super-sharp memory was gone. I didn’t realize how different my memory was from the norm until I confessed it to various friends and family members, who looked at me strangely and told me that my defective (in my opinion) memory is most like everyone else’s normal memory and not defective at all.

These conversations came after I’d walked through a new hippie shop in Destin.  As my gaze wandered over a certain type of incense that is burned over charcoal, I suddenly remembered a beautifully passionate moment I’d thought I would never forget.  Just the day before, my brother had commented on some animal tracks and I’d stepped back in time to that moment when someone  else important to me had told me the same thing.  I remembered the information, but I’d forgotten the situation where I’d been given this information, and having to recover that memory, having to grab it back from oblivion, was frightening and disturbing for me.  How could such precious memories be gone?

Not that they were specifically more precious than others.  It’s been my norm to remember all those moments, not just the highlights.  My ex used to say that I remembered every detail between us, things important and unimportant that he’d long since forgotten (probably as soon as the next five minutes afterward).  I never could understand how he could not remember things until I walked him back down that lane and painted a few pictures to jog his memory.  Memory joggers were something I didn’t really need.  All the memories were always there.

When I walked away from the incense in that shop, I felt frantic.  I was used to every memory being right under the surface.  Now, it’s there if I, um, jog my memory.  I can read back over what I wrote in my journal from those nights and it all comes back, beautiful and vivid.  Or I might see something that reminds me, but the memories are under a layer of time now.  That’s different for me.

My friends and family tell me that this is the norm for them.  They still see my memory as extremely sharp, just not what it was a year or two ago. I never thought of it as a super power, just…normal.  For me.

But as I absorb this, I understand better now why people in my past became frustrated with me for not “letting go” of something, someone, some situation and moving on.  To them, they could forget easily and had little trouble letting go of memories when I might have welcomed losing a little of the edge of things that were painful.  I would become irritated with their constant preaching to “let go and let God” when I literally could not let go.  The moments were there for me as present now as when they happened.  Everything from my past had crowded into my present and could not be forgotten or forsaken.  I couldn’t let go of the memories because I wasn’t wired to, and they wouldn’t let go of me.

Having this kind of super power memory was a curse as often as it was a blessing, but now that it’s gone, I really appreciate–and miss–having the rawness of the original moment with me at all times.