Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Forget-Me-Not (an IWSG post)

Photo by  Sedum and used under the linked license.

When I was a kid, my best friend was from a rather large, blended family. He was the youngest of, like, seven or eight kids (I can't actually remember now). His oldest brother was about 20 years older than him, and he was my favorite of Cory's brothers. Billy, the older brother, would do things like play football with us in the backyard. It would be Cory and me against Billy. At some point during any game (multiple points, actually), we'd end up on each of Billy's legs trying to tackle him while he dragged us through the yard toward the goal line. He was a lot of fun.

Somewhere in there, Billy developed some mental instability. I don't remember or know everything about what happened -- I was only eight or so -- but I know there was an aneurysm involved and a subsequent stay in a mental ward. And an escape.

Yeah, one night, he escaped, and he came to my house. I'm really not sure why he came to my house other than that sometimes he and my dad would play guitar together or, maybe, we were just closer? Whatever the reason, we let him in, because, well, he didn't know he'd escaped; we just thought he was dropping by. Or something. Even if it was kind of late.

So we all sat around together, and he talked about what it was like to be in a mental institution and what it was like to be crazy. Because he could remember some of what it was like to be crazy. Sometimes, he only remembered the things he did but, other times, he remembered the emotions and urges driving him to do the things he did, and he talked about all of it. Some of which I'm sure was quite inappropriate for me to hear. The thing that stayed with me, though, is how he'd no control over himself during those episodes. Like he was outside watching his body do things that he couldn't keep it from doing.

Somewhere in that conversation, and he was there for hours, he started talking about how he'd escaped...

But the rest isn't really important. The important thing is that I developed a "fear" of mental breakdown, and that, I think, was the beginning of it. The actual is more inclusive of a failure of mental capacity, which includes forgetting things. I used to keep all kids of little notes to myself about things when I was in high school and college so that I wouldn't forget those things. I never, later, needed the notes, but that was probably because I made the notes in the first place.

And all of this is coming up now because, last month, I forgot my IWSG post. I mean, I completely forgot it. I forgot it so much that I didn't remember it until Alex said to me, "Is this [emphasis mine] your IWSG post?" about a post which was definitely not an IWSG post. Man, I HATE forgetting things.

Because of my fear of forgetting, I keep a lot of notes about stories and story ideas. I have a file for them and add to them as I think of things so that I can continue with whatever I'm working on. So far, it works pretty well. The file system I'm using now is important, though, in that before I was using it, back when I was writing "The Evil That Men Do," I made a lot of notes about the world that would be for Shadow Spinner and then... lost them. When I started on Spinner and couldn't find my notes, I panicked because I couldn't remember any of what I'd written down, so, well, I started over. Later, much later, when I was almost finished with Spinner, I found my original notes and, amazingly enough, what I'd done held to what I'd originally had down almost 100%. But, still, I don't trust that, especially when I do things like forget IWSG.

So I make notes.

However, I'm still not very good at making grocery lists. I can't even begin to tell you how many things I've forgotten just this week at the store. Maybe I need to make myself a note to make myself a list...

All of  that to say  that my greatest insecurity, both as a writer and as a person, is that I will become mentally deficient in some way, especially in a way that would mean I could just forget things. That I am smart has always been a defining characteristic for me and losing that as I age is a way worse thought than any physical deterioration. So it's about time someone develops that anti-aging serum. Or something.

This post has been brought to you in part by Alex Cavanaugh and the IWSG.

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Also, make sure you stop by Indie Writers Monthly today for information about the July issue and part six of my series "Lies Writers Tell... To Other Writers."


  1. With the scare of something like Alzheimer's happening to us later in life, I think a lot of us fear losing our memory.
    Funny you ended up following your notes that you thought you'd forgotten.
    But it is easy to forget. Sometimes I forget to announce someone's book in my news section and I feel really, really bad. Too much to remember these days.

  2. I am sooo with you on this topic...I'm starting to forget, or maybe, we have too much bumping around in our brains, and that edges certain things out of the way. I have to write lists, a lot of people do. Last month, I actually forgot about the IWSG post and wrote it slapdash in the morning...

  3. OMG! Your father must have been freaked when he realized he was playing host to a friend who was now an asylum escapee. :O

    I've accepted the fact that I forget things - more things as I age - but I rarely forget anything important. If I forget a story idea, I figure it must not have been that good to begin with! No one in my family has Alzheimer's or dementia, so I hope to escape that bullet. There've been several cancers in my family though, so I may die of that before I get old enough to worry about Alzheimer's. :P

  4. How does one react to learning the person you've been talking to for hours has just escaped from any asylum? That had to be an interesting situation for your parents.

    I've done the lost notes thing too. Thankfully, I also managed to stay mostly on track. Frustrating at the time though and wondering where they'd gone near drove me to distraction. Having watched all my grandparents lose themselves and now my elderly MIL is entering that arena as well, I'm with you on the whole fear of forgetting.

  5. You brought to mind a neighbor of mine when I was growing up. His name is John and he also had a breakdown of sorts. His happened after going to bootcamp. He was my brother's friend and twelve years my senior. I recall him tearing apart his house and the police not being able to do anything because, well, it was his house. Then, he threatened the president's life and was taken away. I forgot all about him until I read this.

    As you know, my mom has Alzheimer's and I was her primary caregiver for close to ten years before she was admitted into a facility. Although I'm not blood related (I'm adopted), that fear of forgetting things still lingers inside me. I keep my notes on my cell phone. Just little jots of ideas to help me remember.


  6. My mother fell and hit her head (twice) a few years ago. Her memory is pretty much like Swiss cheese now. So many holes in it. Some days she knows who I am, and other days, no. She says the same things over and over again, thinking it's the first time she's said it, and doesn't understand why people just nod at her and look away. It's very, very sad to lose one's memory.

  7. Akutagawa Ryunosuke watched his mother go insane from the time he was little until she passed away and had an intense fear as well. His story doesn't end well (hereditary; suicide) but I don't think you need to worry about that, at least for now. Could just be that you've got too much on your plate to keep track of. But, I'm like you, too. Copious notes!

  8. You're note alone in your fear. I'm with you, and I hope someone develops an anti-aging serum, too.

  9. Yep, know exactly where you're coming from.

    Especially as I get older, (I'm 46) I notice me forgetting things here and there. I'm a big note maker, as well.

  10. My parents are increasingly forgetful these days. Sigh... a glimpse of the future...

  11. Alex C: Yeah, and I followed them almost exactly. The only deviation I made, actually, wasn't even from forgetting. I was going to do what was in my notes but decided I liked something else better, so I actually remembered, just discarded.

    Cathrina: Well, I know I have too much bouncing around in my head. Sometimes, considering my daughter's softball schedule, I'm amazed I remember anything else.

    Lexa: You know, I don't remember anyone freaking out. And there was no hubbub about it later. And they let me just keep sitting there. So, yeah, I don't know...

    Jean: Well, I knew where mine had gone, the same place I always put things: somewhere safe where I will not lose them. I just can never remember where those safe places are.

    Elsie: Interesting. Can you actually get carted off for threatening the president even if it's not a credible threat?

    L.G.: That's too horrible to think about.

    Alex H: I have so much on my plate that I have more off my plate than on.

    Cherie: There is some interesting stuff going on in aging research, right now. It's fascinating.

    Mark: I try to just hang onto, "I've forgotten more than you will ever know."
    10 points to anyone who knows what that's from.

  12. TAS: My mom seems to be doing okay, and that's the only thing I have to go off of.

  13. We all forget sometimes. Don't be too hard on yourself. But it's great that you keep a lot of notes. I do the same thing. Especially for the ever growing list of story ideas I get because I definitely don't want to forget those details!

  14. I'm right there with you. Three of my grandparents had serious mental issues. I think I've already outlived two of them. One died in a murder/suicide and the other under strange circumstances - probably not suicide, but still weird.

    My point. Is I'm always cognizant of the crazy in my family. If those are heritable traits I might be in trouble. My grandma spent the last 30 years of her life in a mental ward.

    Thankfully, with the closure of most state run mental facilities I'd probably end up homeless if I went bonkers.

    Wait, that's worse. Sheesh. All I'm saying is that I think about my fragile hold on reality way too much. So, I'm just glad I'm not alone.

  15. I remember reading somewhere that smart people are more anxious and hesitant because they can't stop thinking about what could go wrong. Maybe they should develop a serum for that first.

  16. Chrys: Notes are important.

    Rusty: On the one hand, I get the desire to close mental facilities that were underfunded and poorly run and often had harmful environments for their occupants. On the other, I fail to see where closing those facilities and dumping those people on the streets (because they have no one who can or will take care of them) is a better option.

    Jeanne: I don't think the data supports that. That particular tendency, of hesitation, is not directly tied to intelligence but to extro-/intro-vertedness.
    The correlation might be that a greater percentage of introverts are of above average intelligence than extroverts. However, a smart extrovert is not likely to hesitate whereas a dumb introvert will.
    Last stuff I was reading, anyway.

  17. I could see your post as a premise for a book someday. Guy shows up at a house in the middle of the night. No one knows he just escaped from a mental institution:)

  18. Jennifer: I don't think I've seen that in a book, but I'm sure it's been in a movie or a TV show.

  19. That is actually one of my fears too. I rely on my good memory so much. Tell me if you hear about that serum!

  20. This post sounds like the beginning of an incredible story. I'd read about a character with mental problems as long as it was done with respect. :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

  21. Christine: Well, there is actually work being done on something that would, basically, reset your body's clock. In effect, it could take you from being 70 to being 20. Or something like that.

    emaginette: I don't have any plans to do a story like this any time soon, but I'll keep it in mind. heh
    Maybe, I should make a note.

  22. Wow, that's quite a story about Billy~ do you still keep in touch with his brother, your old best friend? I hope Billy's doing okay these days.

    Mental breakdowns are scary things to think about, as is the inevitable mental decline that comes with age, especially in my family. Both dementia and Alzheimers swim in my gene pool, and the latest person to be affected is my grandmother. Granted, she's 96, so "forgetting" things is bound to happen. But I've seen it happen sooner with other relatives. My father's had an episode where he couldn't remember who he was or where he was. Just a short episode that has yet to be repeated, but it came on when he was at a gym, working out. Scared the bejeezus out of him. He's a very smart man as well, and that lack of control over his mental capabilities was truly frightening.

  23. I'm not sure about present day, but back in the 70's that's all it took for him to be taken to the mental hospital for evaluation. He had just torn down his parents' above ground pool but the cops couldn't do anything because he lived there and his parents didn't want him arrested, they wanted him to receive help. So, they refused to press charges on their son. Eventually, his outburst turned towards his hatred of the military and the president. It was so sad.

  24. Jessica: I had to switch schools in 5th grade, and we'd pretty much fallen out of touch by the end of middle school. I have no idea what happened with Billy.

    Elsie: Yeah, that's a hard situation. I wonder what the procedure for that would be these days?