The Fatigue of Continuing to Need to Rediscover

© 2001 Michele Toomey, PhD


March 21, 2001

Memory is so essential to the meaning of life. If each experience is erased, we lose our orientation, our context, ourselves. Or so it would seem. If we must ask, moment by moment, where are we, where have we been, and where are we going, we feel lost. Lost to placement and direction, lost to reality and meaning. We have been lost in space, for all intents and purposes. So we must try to discover where we are, where we've been, and ground ourselves in time and space. Memory is not available. Everything has been erased. Only clues remain. Clues allow us to piece together the answers, at least some of them, and we begin to rediscover pieces of the puzzle.

It is tiring, very tiring to continually reconstruct the past, because the present becomes the past instantaneously. Without memory, the past is erased as quickly as it occurs. What a Herculean task to have to reconnect the dots when the dots themselves aren't visible. For you, Marlene, to be on a constant search, hunting down every scrap of paper, searching for every snippet of information, looking for every association and piecing together every clue, is to be asked to maintain untold stamina. Frustration and fatigue are ever your companions. Fortunately, the curse of memory loss has its reprieve, you forget even the frustration and fatigue, because you start anew. Rediscoveries have a fresh look, they appear as new discoveries. You can get energized by the very repetition that fatigues you. A gift of sorts that allows you to continue, another resource for Keeping on Keeping on.

Not so for me. I witness it and I remember. Now I must confront my own fatigue. The repetition of rediscovered discoveries. The relentless search for misplaced things. The unending erasure of shared experiences. The sadness of seemingly never being able to move forward. Only circling back. The sadness of memory loss is profoundly impacting on my very soul, moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month, and now year by year.

Now I must engage in a search. Where will I find the stamina and the spirit to keep on keeping on? There is no relief from memory loss unless one can find the place to stand beside it without hating it. I know I must look at you, Marlene. You are still there and you are present in the present. I must stay in the present when I am in your presence, because you are there. I do not hate you. I love you. So I must look at you. Be present to you and with you. I must learn to be present to myself as well. After I connect with you, make sure you are ok and be helpful to you, I must look at myself, or I will have my own memory loss. That is not necessary nor desirable. I have dreams and needs yet to be fulfilled. I must remember that. I cannot focus my attention and emotion solely on you, or I will have forgotten myself. Misplaced her. Not the way I would want to deal with your survival, with my life.

So I come to realize that almost 2 1/2 years after your attack by herpes simplex encephalitis, I must remember how to protect myself from forgetting myself. Or I will become resentful by my own doing. Certainly not by yours. It's actually my memory loss that needs to be addressed here. You and I are addressing yours, and you are doing extremely well. Hating it but accepting it and dealing with it. I, on the other hand, am running out of steam because I have not paid enough attention to myself. Talk about discovery and rediscovery. It's my turn to do just that for myself. I owe it to you and to me. I choose to keep on keeping on, so I must choose to take my turn and not be part of the memory loss.

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