Monday, May 7, 2012

A Three Story Life-The Wayback Machine

The Wayback Machine was a device used by Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman to visit history. Peabody's Improbable History cartoons were a feature of the Rocky and Bullwinkle show, a genius Jay Ward enterprise. Peabody, here, Mr. Peabody said to start, and we would then happily journey back in time. In our house, The Wayback Machine begins with that's like... or I remember. If Dad says I remember, there will be a tenuous connection to what we are talking about in real time. If it's that's like, the anecdote will have little or nothing to do with now. Many conversations include these two episodic references. I think older people talk this way because long-term memory is most readily accessible. Humans like to have self-relatedness. We all like to talk about ourselves. But the non sequitur recurrence makes it head spinning to keep up during a crisis that needs attention. In the midst of household problem solving, it's downright hard. It confuses me, it confuses people from outside our house who are participating in what's being discussed. Maybe it's common to try to explain what we did 45 years ago that may or may not have led us to where we are now. But information revealed in this way doesn't clarify anything for the listeners-it makes getting through a sticky wicket that much gummier. Today I said a dozen times, let's focus on the here and now. We moved into the 80s fairly quickly, but never did get out of that troublesome decade altogether. Do we all do that? Dad tells anecdotes to me as though I was not there when the story unfolded. This behavior is particularly perplexing because in every other way his cognitive function is fine. He just won't switch The Wayback Machine off, especially if we're confronting a situation that requires present tense attention and a rapid solution. I think those of us who are stuck in the past tend to stay stuck. Everything is a reflection, living is not done in the present. Problem solving is solving problems in the past. Alternative outcomes get reviewed repeatedly in private, until the past is a wheel in a cage. There must be some brain function that allows a successful conclusion from the past to stand in for what's going on now. I'm over analyzing this. I need more present and accounted for behavior in dealing with situations, because our lives right now contain serial situations. All I know truly is it is not possible to count your blessings when the wheel of self-analytics is going full speed, and I have great sympathy for my father. It has to be exhausting not to have blessings in the now to count.

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