Memory and Habit

It seems as if I spent an inordinate amount of time looking for things, not just photos (as I mentioned yesterday), but physical items. The latest thing I’ve been searching for is a wrought iron hook for hanging plants that had been attached to the ramp when I moved here. I took it off when I painted the ramp and then forgot all about it. I found it again last year when I was putting things away in my new garage, and I placed it . . . somewhere. I remember putting it where I would intuitively look for it, but it has disappeared, so either my intuition isn’t working, I accidentally threw it away, or it’s in hiding. It’s not a major issue except for the time I spent looking for it because I’m probably going to order a new one to match the two I put up last year. And anyway, the time I spent looking wasn’t really wasted because as I looked, I was able to rearrange and clean the part of the garage where my contractor had stored supplies, unused building materials, and some of the tools he’d been using.

But it irritates me all the same. I used to pride myself on my memory, but episodes like this tell me it’s no longer a source of pride. I’m just grateful I can still remember most of what I want to remember!

It’s also frustrating to misplace small things like that hook because in recent years I’ve gotten in the habit of putting things away in the same place I got them from so that they are always where I can find them. Before that, I wasn’t particularly careful — messes didn’t bother me, and if they did, I’d simply immerse myself in reading and voila! No mess. It’s sort of like that old conundrum: “if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear, does it make a sound?” In my case, though, it was more a matter of “if your house is messy and you don’t see it, is it really messy?”

I shouldn’t feel too badly about the hook; after all, it wasn’t something I used and then didn’t put back in the right place. There was no right place. It was a one-time deal.

It is a reminder, though, that when one’s memory doesn’t work as well as it once did, then habit becomes especially important.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

4 Responses to “Memory and Habit”

  1. Malene Says:

    Betting this segment from CBC’s The Sunday Magazine will cause you revise your, IMO rather harsh, judgment of your own memory 😊


    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Forgetting is part of memory. We can’t remember everything, nor do we want to. Once we’ve learned to walk, we no longer need to remember how to walk; it’s become habit. That’s why habit is so important and why after the death of a lifemate the brain goes into overdrive because so many of one’s habits from the shared life are defunct. I don’t mind forgetting so much, it’s the time spent looking for otherwise unimportant things that sometimes irritates me.

  2. Uthayanan Says:

    Please take photos when
    putting things away in your new garage, and I placed it . . . somewhere
    Or sometimes when you put things in your garage or in a store room for a while.
    With age sometimes memory is not really fading but accumulating informations.
    Something like how you arrange your files, folders, images in a computer.
    Brain will simply get tired.
    I feel it is nothing with your pride.
    Before computers people people need to arrange everything only physically.
    Now you are arranging things physically and virtually.
    Please give your brain some time to work with both worlds.
    When there is conflict please refresh with a good tea and black chocolate.

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