Memory

I wrote a few years ago about how my memory can really be a curse, causing me to relive horrible moments from the past.  It doesn’t do that anymore; I don’t re-experience all of the emotions attached to my negative memories anymore.  That changed in October or November, and has remained the case.

I’ve always found my memory a blessing in many ways, but today I realized a new one.  I guess this is also due to my ability to remember negative and unpleasant experiences without going through the ordeal again.  I remember very clearly what it was like, as a child, to be talked to “like a child.”  Specifically, when adults would speak to me with the obvious assumption that I did not understand things fully or deeply, or that I must have been saying something simpler than what I was saying.  It was frustrating, and infuriating.  When I was a bit older, and less confident for lots of reasons, it was also embarrassing and demoralizing, probably because I believed there must be truth in their assumption of my inadequacy.  This is a blessing, because by remembering this so clearly, and remembering, but no longer having to experience these emotions, I can make an effort not to do that to the children in my life.  I can listen to them, and look for their meaning and the value in what they have to say.  They are intelligent, autonomous people, with vibrant and independent minds.  Minds capable of producing complex thoughts, and understanding complex things.  Those thoughts are valid, and valuable, and worthy of my attention and my effort to understand.  Just like mine were.  Just like mine are now.

I remember a couple of times that I said something, and an adult would state it back to me in glib language that did not express the fullness of what I meant.  One time I was recounting something our parish’s pastor said to my grade 1 class, and my dad sort of repeated it back with a qualifier that was (I think) him trying to direct me to understanding that the statement was a metaphor.  I knew it was a metaphor.  I understood it abstractly, and didn’t need help expressing it.  And I wanted to share what I’d learned that day, because it meant something to me, not be helped to understand what Fr. told us.  Another time I said “the piano is kind of the key instrument, isn’t it?”  What I meant was that you can play a full range of notes, and any musical piece on the piano, and I remember having thought of this after noting that composers and song writers mostly seemed to use a piano, regardless of the instrument(s) they were writing for.  It was my dad again, and his response was “Right!  It is a key instrument!” meaning “yes you clever boy; you’ve noticed a piano works by  hitting the keys.”  I didn’t even understand at the time that I was feeling insulted by the fact that that adult hadn’t (a) actually been listening to the words I said, and (b) thought I considered my own recognition of the keys on a piano to be a meaningful revelation.  It wasn’t – you hit them and sounds come out; it doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to get it.  I totally recognize that my dad’s intention was actually to engage in this conversation with me, and to show that he was listening to me, and cared what I had to say.  I’m not bitter about it or anything – parents make mistakes, and everyone’s good at some stuff, and not good at other stuff.  In his motivation and intention, I don’t see insult; I see love.

Remembering such events, I can be mindful of how I talk to kids, and try not to do what used to really really piss me off, and make me feel less than.  I can extend this further, to adults.  I’m very intelligent, and sometimes I do this to adults that aren’t as smart as me, or I don’t think are as smart as me, or who I don’t like very much, or whatever.  Whether to kids or adults, I don’t like being that guy.  So, from now on, I won’t be.

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