|River Deben saltings Muddy creeks fill up at high water but the salt marsh is rarely covered. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
According to Greek mythology, the dead drank from the Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, so they would not remember the life that they had recently left. Sadly, some of us as we grow older begin to sip on those waters of forgetfulness in the years before we leave this Earth. In some cases it is the afflictions such as dementia or Alzheimer's that can muddle the mind, while others may stay sharp and cognizant into a very old age. For others it may not as much of an aging thing as it may have to do with poor diet, use of mind-altering substances (alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs either prescribed or recreational), or other memory deterring factors.
Memory can be a tricky thing that is highly unpredictable. There are people who tend to be forgetful throughout their lives. Memory training can be an answer that might help and even certain vitamins, minerals, and other substances have shown to be effective for some. So far there is no exact science that can perform memory magic for everyone. There are probably as many variables regarding memory as there are people.
What are the implications of memory loss for those wanting to write memoir? The answer is pretty obvious: For the memoir writer, memory is most of the content. If the memories aren't there then there is no memoir, but the written work becomes something else entirely. If the memories are faulty then the memoir is unreliable and potentially a work closer to fiction than anything of historical value.
Anyone interested in writing their own memoirs someday would do well to begin now. If you have been thinking of writing your own memoir and have not been keeping track of life then the present is the time to be recording that which tomorrow will be the past. Journals or diaries are invaluable resources for the memoirist. These along with scrapbooks and photo albums are the obvious first choices for recording life stories. Here are a few more for you to consider:
- Make a time-line--A loose leaf binder or a word document works best for this method. Starting with your birth date, record your life by years filling in highlights and significant events as they come to you. You can keep going back to add to this as memories come back to you.
- Create a personal folklore--When I was a kid my mother would tell me stories about when she was a child and I did the same with my own kids. Children love stories so why not get creative with your own life and leave a legacy for your kids. It's like money in the bank. When you need to withdraw the memories you've forgotten then maybe your kids can help by retelling the legend of you as they remember hearing it.
- Assemble the artifacts of your life--If you tend to accumulate old memories, why not organize them in a logical sequence. Write down what they represent and if they aren't dated already, try to record the date as close to what you can remember.
- Talk to family and friends--Conversation is typically an enjoyable pastime for most of us. Use those times for probing the minds of others as to what they remember about the family history and make notes that will help put pieces of your life in better perspective. You might even inspire a collaborative family history project.
- Read modern histories--We all have memories of the current events that occurred during our lives and often those events have had impact on us. What did we do in response to various events and what did we think in those times? History books and documentaries can touch parts of our lives that we may have forgotten.
- Record a personal documentary--This can be done with audio recordings or even better by video. You can do this yourself or recruit the help of someone with good equipment and editing skills. Use all the resources you have on hand to add images and sound bites. It's best to write the script ahead of time, but the interviews can be improvisational and edited later if necessary. If you want to do a higher quality job, hire a professional life documentarian. There are a number who can be found online. This will be more expensive, but what a great keepsake for you and the rest of your family. This is a nice gift idea for Christmas--you can have one made for a loved one whose memory you would like to help preserve or have your own life story made with copies to be distributed among those who would like something like this.
Now is the time to save your own life! And by that I mean to document your life and your memories for posterity. Once you have everything in order and still want to focus on writing true memoir--snippets of your life story or the impressions that certain parts of your life left on you--the full overview of the story makes the ideal resource to use for your reference.
Don't wait until age or some catastrophic mental loss has taken away your memories. Put them down on record so they won't be totally forgotten.
What are some things you do to help you to remember the details of your life? Have you tried any of the suggestions I've made here? Do you have anything about the life of a friend, someone in your family, or some other person significant to you that was left in your care?