The Benefits of a Poor Memory

by on August 22nd, 2014
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At some point, everyone is forgetful. Who hasn’t locked their keys in the car or missed an appointment? We lose phones, sunglasses, and sometimes our sanity. We see people we know, but don’t want to greet them, because we can’t remember their names or even how we know them.

For some, this type of memory loss is rare. They are as sharp as a tack and can tell you stories from long ago in all their glorious detail. For others, like me, it can be a struggle to remember what I ate for dinner last night. Ask me what I did last week and I’d really have to think. You might think I am old, but I am only 27. I can’t wait to see how bad I am when I really am old. Sure, this has put me in some awkward situations or has caused problems, but being forgetful has benefits too. What? Benefits to being forgetful? That’s right; all you people with perfect memories are going to be super jealous.

One reason I like having a poor memory is that I can read my favorite books over and over and still be surprised. I can watch re-runs on TV I’ve already seen or old movies and still not remember everything that happened. If I really like a movie and watch it about ten times, then I can usually remember it all pretty well. I can watch murder mysteries I’ve seen before and not know who the killer is. I can laugh again at the jokes I’ve heard before. Why do I have so many books? Because I want good books on hand whenever I want to read something, and if I like something the first time, I will probably like it when I read it again.

Along the same lines, life is rarely boring. Even experiences I’ve had before can seem new. Unfortunately, this means I also have a hard time remembering those once-in-a-lifetime moments, like getting engaged or my wedding day. If it weren’t for pictures and written accounts, important things might be lost forever in the dusty vault of my mind. Of course, I would never completely forget our wedding day, but I’m sure I can’t remember it with the clarity that it deserves. I mainly just remember my brother-in-law/best man fainting when handing the priest the rings. I also remember eating and dancing a lot.

My husband is always asking why I take so many pictures, often of things he considers small and trivial. I take my camera everywhere and I can easily fill the memory card with things that no one else would care about but me. Well, someone might, but they are mainly for me and they aren’t always great enough to share. They are just little daily things I want to preserve, because I know that if I don’t, those little moments will be gone forever. I feel like I need pictures to be my substitute memory. This is also why I write so much, and why I need to write about an experience right away in order to describe something in full detail.

Strangely, I remember things from early childhood with more clarity than recent events. Another funny thing is that I can read my own stories and still be surprised sometimes. “Oh yeah,” I think, “I forgot I said that!” This is why when someone comments on an old article I wrote, I usually have to read it all over again to see what they were even referring to. I often write entire articles or poems, only to forget about them and find them months later when they are no longer relevant. This is not a benefit, but if they are relevant and I can publish it, I’m like, “Cool! Out of nowhere I have something written and ready to go!”

Perhaps most importantly, I believe having a hazy memory helps with relationships, especially with my husband. If I didn’t forget fights and anger so easily, I might hold grudges. I can be fuming mad about something when I go to bed, only to wake up and forget I was even upset. Some people advise never to go to bed angry. I say, “Let’s just sleep on it; I will likely forget this even happened.” Usually, the only reason we are fighting in the first place is because I’m tired and cranky. Further pushing the issue will just make things worse. Like shaking an Etch-a-Sketch, after a good night’s sleep, usually any anger I had is gone.

So having a hazy memory means that I forgive easily and let things go much faster than a lot of people. I think forgetting why I was even mad to begin with is helpful with this. I’ve even been friendly to people who wronged me in some way, only to remember later that they did whatever it was they did. Then I wonder if I would have been quite as friendly to them if I had remembered at the time, but I’m glad that in their eyes, it looked as if I was the bigger person, even if it was by mistake.

Then again, forgetfulness can hurt relationships. I am terrible at remembering dates of birthdays and I can go weeks or months without calling good friends and family. It’s not that I don’t care; it’s just that I get busy and forget to call. This is something I need to work on.

Recently I was in the kitchen and saw on a list that I needed a birthday card for my nephew’s party that day. I decided to go look in the office for any cards I already had. By the time I walked the ten steps to the office, I had forgotten why I was in there. I had to walk back the list and then repeat, “Birthday card, birthday card, birthday card” all the way back to the office. I thought this was kind of a funny story, so later on at the party, I decided to tell it around the fire.

“My memory is so bad that…” I started. Then I drew a blank. I could not even remember the story. I started laughing at myself and everyone else thought it was a joke I told on purpose. No, it wasn’t a joke, which is why it was so hilarious.

I don’t want people to think I am incompetent now or that I am so forgetful that I can’t get through life. I’m not that bad. I was generally a straight-A student and do any job I have efficiently. I manage to function quite well overall. It just takes a few extra tools to make sure things get done. I use sticky notes, I set phone alarms and timers for everything, I send e-mails to myself, and set up as much as I can to happen automatically, such as bill payment. Notes aren’t as effective as alarms, because they don’t make noise. I even bought a shirt that said, “Note to Self: Read Notes,” but I keep forgetting I have it. Ha!

Yes, it takes a little more planning when you are a person with a foggy memory, but it’s not all doom and gloom. I think it makes life more exciting and enables me to forgive and forget. I’d also like to say that, uh, what was I saying again? Oh well. I’m sure it wasn’t that important.

Oh, and here’s a “Deep Thought” I wrote in the style of Jack Handey that relates to this: “The faded reminders on my hand reminded me of my memory–fading away, which is ironic*, because I wrote them on my hand to remind myself what to do.”

*I don’t think this is really the correct use of “ironic,” but I wrote it back in high school before a college class discussion about the misuse of the word “irony” in society. I mainly remember them bashing Alanis Morissette’s song, “Isn’t it Ironic?,” saying that most of those instances were not irony. Yes, I went to college for four years and took many classes, and this is basically the only thing I remember (just kidding, sort of). Anyway, I found a pretty funny analysis of her lyrics and which instances are actually good examples of irony. You can read it here.

Also, my friend Michele Starkey coincidentally wrote an article recently about how being in a good mood can make people forgetful. Thanks for the excuse, Michele! I am generally a happy person, so that it explains everything! You can read her article here.

So, are you like me or do you feel you have a pretty good memory? Can you think of any other benefits to having a poor memory? Please share in the comments below.


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