Alarms go off on my phone throughout the day, all day, every day.
I’m sure my co-workers love this.
I was chatting with a co-worker one day last week, and an alarm went off. She immediately became concerned, kind soul that she is, that I had something important to do. I talked my way around explaining to her that the alarm was telling me that I needed to move my Zeke’s Coffee K-cups from my desk drawer to my purse sometime in the next eight hours, a job that was in NO WAY urgent.
Why do I set alarms for small tasks like this?
Because I am worried that I will forget.
There is a mild and silly version of this worry, and there is a deeper and more meaningful version of this worry.
I am constantly worried that I will forget something small – a thing I have to do, a story I want to write. Last night, I spent two hours sorting through drafted posts on the blog, many of which were one line long, reading something like “story about a cactus with feet” or “remember to take everything one step at a time.” I tend to have a thought, and then immediately try to record it somewhere so it won’t be forgotten forever.
This can be exhausting.
I forced myself to go through over 75 drafted posts last night, and I deleted many of the one-liners. Each time, I had to reassure myself that either a) I wouldn’t forget, or b) if I forgot, it wasn’t that important. Which is what I actually believe.
I spend a lot of time thinking about tangible habits that I want to form or break – drinking diet soda, exercising, writing. But there are these invisible habits that we all have, some of which can be extremely helpful or harmful in their own quiet way. Like being so afraid of forgetting that we have a running to do list in our heads, alarms set on our phones, notes in our notebook, and a planner full of post-its.
I’m tired and stressed just thinking about it!
And then, of course, there’s the deeper anxiety around this issue.
I am terrified of forgetting things about my dad.
I’m not known for having a good memory. (SEE ABOVE!) The way some people can recall the smallest details, the richest qualities of an experience – I often can’t even call up the simplest of memories. I forget to take medicine, to brush my teeth, to eat lunch. I forget appointments. I forget to return phone calls or texts. And I worry that this means I will forget a whole bunch of memories of one of the most important people in my life.
I remember unpacking soccer jerseys with him and pulling out the #2 jersey, since we knew that one would be mine. I remember him telling me that someone left a bunch of T-shirts on our doorstep for my soccer team – it was years before I realized that my dad had specially ordered them after we’d lost a tough game, even though I was well-informed of my dad’s love for special-ordering T-shirts. I have a vivid memory of having lunch with him at a Pizza Hut in between games at a travel tournament, though I have no idea where the tournament was or even which team I was travelling with at the time. I remember driving with him on an open road in Florida weeks before he died, and listening to him tell stories about his cousins and encourage me to have adventures.
I get an Alexander Hamilton-esque obsessiveness as I start to type these memories. (Why do you write like you’re running out of time?)
I remember going out to dinner and my dad always finishing his meal first. I remember him telling me that my mom looks good in peach. I remember him hanging banners on our birthdays. I remember him hugging me and saying “My baby!” in a funny voice. I remember going to work with him on Take Your Daughter To Work Day and every Christmas Eve. One of his co-workers asked me how I got stuck with him as my dad, and I explained that even if I’d gotten to choose, I would have picked him every time, and his co-worker laughed and gave me blank paper and highlighters to play with.
The brutal truth is that I won’t remember everything, and I can’t write down everything, and I may even forget some of the things I’ve typed here today.
And that has to be okay. Because, as with all things, it is the way it is. Writing helps. Whether it’s my intention or not, memories of my dad pop into my writing every single day. The simple act of recording may help to preserve these memories – or not. That is not in my control.
I wonder sometimes if my anxiety about forgetting the little things is REALLY my anxiety about forgetting the big things – just manifested in a manageable way.
Then I decide to stop therapizing myself, at least for the moment. I decide to have faith, to let it go, and to let it be. And I decide to quit it with the alarms before one of my co-workers chokes me.