frost on kitchen window

Image: thick frost on a blue wooden window in my kitchen

My life without memory

I have always left myself cryptic notes, even before the concussion.

A devoted and forgetful scribbler of reminders, I exist in ADHD time: the thing that is right in front of me is either entirely invisible to me or, alternately, the only item/task/question/pursuit that exists in the universe, no in-between.

At the same time, I am regularly interrupted by memory, sudden and abrupt, almost unbearably intense.

A loss or heartbreak from years ago hurts the same as the day it happened, I remember and gasp in pain.

It recedes or it doesn’t, on its own timing.

On its own timing, like everything else

I too am on my own timing, I just don’t really have a sense of how it works.

And yet, I maintain a mysteriously high level trust in these reminder notes that almost never do their job.

In the moment, as I am laboriously deciding how to phrase the reminder, I remain fully convinced that the next day I will know exactly what “a time for gleaming, a time for things that gleam” means, and be able to act on that instruction.

Cryptic is such a good word

In a way, these notes confuse me less now because I devote less time to puzzling out what the poet intended.

I am mostly uninterested in what yesterday-me or last-week-me might have meant, if I don’t understand the instructions then they aren’t for me.

Now I just casually toss these post-it notes into the recycling. If I’m meant to remember that clue, it will show up again. Solved by not having to solve it.


Somehow, in the moment of writing these notes, I am wholly convinced that writing it down is the most brilliant, simple, elegant solution to help tomorrow-me remember what is important, what needs to happen, how it needs to happen.

Write it down! That’s the answer!

And occasionally it is.

But the regularity with which I will think to myself, “Great, solved that problem by writing a note for later!” only to find myself utterly baffled by the very same note the next day…

I recognize my handwriting, and maybe a vague shadow of a memory of the mood I felt while writing it (urgency? excitement? cautiously optimistic?) but what did the poet intend? Who can say. Certainly not the poet.

Certainly not someone coping (barely) with memory loss, brain fog and a traumatic brain injury.

Lost & found in translation

It occurred to me just now while rereading that “what did the poet intend” is actually more of a phrase I would use in Hebrew, I’m not sure how well it translates to English.

It’s a reference to the way teachers phrase essay question in literature class. And it makes sense in colloquial Hebrew as any form of “I have no idea what this person is talking about, your guess is as good as mine!”

But it also serves the purpose of directing us to focus on a deeper meaning, because there has to be one somewhere. What do we think the deeper meaning is?

Oof. Suddenly I am not sure if any of that works as well in English, or not, and I can’t think of who to ask.

You will have to tell me in the comments if that phrasing came across as funny (intentional), funny (unintentional) or oddly poetic. Maybe you are also not sure what the poet might have intended here. 😜


Since the concussion reshaped my brain, and even more so since Long Covid changed the shape of my life, I have devoted quite a bit of poet-intending time to thinking about Drew Barrymore’s character in the Adam Sandler comedy Fifty First Dates.

Disclaimer: it has been so many years since I’ve seen this, no idea how it’s held up, my memory is broken, though in general I think Adam Sandler movies tend to be wildly offensive in about a hundred different ways, so apologies if I am referencing a film that did harm, it probably did, I only remember a few scenes.

The part that interests me is the not-remembering, what we do and don’t remember.

Drew Barrymore’s character was in an accident that left her with a brain injury in the form of anterograde amnesia, she remembers her entire life up to the day of the accident and believes it is still that day, each day. Her family doesn’t want her to relive the trauma of the accident, and so they to contrive to make each day the same for her, erasing the passage of time. No more unfolding of time.

Unfolding feels wrong, but maybe time rolls out like a rug.

Good Morning, Confused Lost Self: YOU ARE HERE

And in the end, Lucy (just looked up her name) is married to Adam Sandler’s Henry character, and each morning she wakes up to find a video tape that says GOOD MORNING, LUCY.

She watches the video, which explains her injury and the accident, and catches her up on her current life, in which time does unfold, so that she can go through her day with updated information.

No confusing, alarming surprises about where she is. Or who she is.

Doesn’t that sound lovely.

What Would Drew Barrymore Do (she would watch the video!)

You will be unsurprised to know that I find this both enormously relatable, and that I have a deep yearning for this kind of video I could watch for myself: hey, good morning, this is what you are about, this is how your brain works now, these are the things that are important to you, here is how you get things done.

I crave it. Truly. I want this so badly.

How sweet, how reassuring and convenient to just have all that information pre-packaged, ready to go. To not have to spend so much of my day, so many of my days, just re-remembering and rediscovering the exact same things, astonished anew each time.

Sometimes it seems like that’s all I do, remember.

And on the other hand, maybe that’s not a bad thing even though it feels very time-consuming. As Esther Gokhale says, about movement and posture but really about so many things, forgetting is part of remembering, and each time the memory gains in strength. Or in theory it does.


I sit down to write.

I write words. Often I like them. Not always, but either way, so many points for the act of intentionally sitting, for the practice, for the rituals of composition and reflection.

And then, if I don’t finish the piece of writing, or don’t return to it the very next day with the help of many reminder notes, I forget about it entirely.

This is how I have ended up with dozens and dozens of documents of half-finished essays in various locations, both on my computer and in notebooks.

Just make an ending?

Sometimes I think I want to hold a Rally or put myself through a writing retreat where I just take action on these limbo-pieces of writing: finish them or delete them or publish as they are, fragments.

Flip a coin. Just finish. Just end it. Just erase it. Choose your adventure, or pick your poison.

But then I write myself a note about that, to remind myself to do that, and then I forget what the note meant.

What did the poet intend?

Existing outside of time is not for the faint of heart

The other day, I found some draft essays on the website, unfinished, some just sentence fragments, some hundreds of words, and one, from last March, which I do not remember writing at all, had the most tantalizing title:

Existing outside of time is not for the faint of heart.

What a terrific title. I love it. What does it mean? I mean, what did I mean?

I too am wondering what the poet intended.

Or if I will ever write that piece, or rewrite it, or write a new essay with the same title.

Will I remember how to remember?

Erased at midnight

I was listening to the Blast Zone podcast, the episode about the movie Dark City, which I never saw and am pretty sure I never heard of, and a plot point is that everyone’s minds get wiped at midnight each night.

Which is also extremely relatable.

There are no touch points, this is also something I wrote on a note, and believe to be true, even if I no longer remembered what the poet intended.

I think what I meant is that for me, being disabled in a pandemic, and living in isolation, there are not many external situations or interactions that can remind me of how things are, do I mean touchstones?

So I live by ritual and repetition because those are the stones I can find. If 6pm is when I get into bed and 8pm is when I close eyes, and 6am is when I open eyes, and 6:30am is when I need to be jogging on the red rug, those are points.

Enough points form a constellation or a shape, and I follow that shape, and it doesn’t matter that my mind got wiped again at midnight, if it did, if that’s what the poet intended or if the poet intended for me to remember. I follow the fragments, follow the focus, any stone making up a path, any touch point in a storm.

Chop wood, carry water, remember to remember to remember

This winter has been so brutal, so much harder than last year. Last week the temperature went go down to 9 degrees Fahrenheit (-13 in Celsius? very cold), and I have lost track of how many times the pipes have frozen and burst this year.

Each day in the evening, at sunset, I turn off the well pump, and empty the water from the faucets, so that there is no water in the pipes to expand.

Around noon, I turn the pump back on and open the faucets, sometimes there is water and sometimes there isn’t, sometimes it takes a few hours and sometimes the shed floods.

Even if I don’t have water inside, sometimes there is still water outside, so when it’s time to wash dishes, I go outside to the spigot and fill a jug of water, then heat the water in the kettle, and fill another jug. And so on.

Slow time on the farm. Remember to remember to remember.

And so on

I have never liked the phrase “chop wood carry water” but I get it, ritual and repetition, small tasks, one step at a time, be the bravest hero and get up again, do it again.

With attentiveness? Is that the point? For me it is more about valiant effort.

Valiant Effort is the superpower of keep on keeping on. Good morning, Lucy. Watch the video, Lucy. Fill a water jug. Do it again. Good job.

Braver than the marines.

Forgetting what hurts, forgetting what helps

Sometimes I forget the way I am affected by weather, the grey-white sky, the hailstorms, the 70mph winds hurtling through the canyon, the barometric pressure headaches, until I am crying on the floor in the middle of a mental health crisis.

I write myself notes about this, and the notes don’t make sense.

Don’t believe the weather, I tell myself. What did the poet intend?

Comparison: still the devil

Last year the second half of February was when the worst of winter was over out here, when I felt a reprieve had been granted. I could still see my breath inside in the mornings but not all day. More light more hope.

And so this year, without really realizing it, I have just been coaxing myself to get here. Just make it through the first third of February, and you win. Winter will be until it it isn’t.

I don’t think I understood to what extent I was hanging by a thread to get to last week, until then last week when the reprieve didn’t come. I looked at the weather app and saw NINE DEGREES and lost my fucking mind, or whatever was left of it, and cried and cried and could not stop crying.

But why compare this year to last year. This year is this year. Now is not then.

In the realm of badasses and badassery, badass adjacent, but what does it mean?

My friends tell me I am a badass.

I most emphatically do not perceive that I am a badass. Apparently my internal (monster-written?) definition of badass includes “not crying for hours at a setback”. My monsters think I am the biggest baby, the biggest fuckup, always lost and confused.

However, apparently I am wrong. Apparently living alone at the edge of the edge, wounded and confused, outside of time and outside of culture, living by ritual and repetition is in the realm of badass, even when I forget. And I am always forgetting.


What would a badass do? Watch the video, Lucy.

Good morning, good morning, good morning. This is your life now.

Or: this is your life right now, in this moment.

Now is not then. Things move and shift and change.

It’s another beautiful day at Slow Time Farm. It won’t be this cold forever. You’re doing great.

Get dressed. Be brave. Jog for 23 minutes on the red rug. Fill the water jugs when you can. Good job, babe.

{enter as you wish to be in it}

These are the things I do before I sit down to write:

wash & dry dishes
clean my librarian glasses
vacuum the rug
remove any iguanas (stressful things) or distractions from line of sight
turn on the heating pad
light candle or loose incense
fill a glass of water

Breathe in, breathe out. We will write our way through.

Where is the freedom

Where is the freedom within the Drew Barrymore as Lucy situation, and how does it work? What is useful in this situation of apparently my mind gets erased each night at midnight? Talk to me about the liberation within traumatic brain injury and long covid and not being able to focus?

There is an element of each day you start fresh.

There is an element of preserving some baseline information about what you’re working with (ritual & repetition, scribbled notes, carry water).

I am learning about my life without memory. I am learning about my life, without memory.

Learning about my life without memory, without memory

I am learning about being a writer who has to write without the gift of memory, just these confusing post-it notes, quarter-to-half essays, and sometimes just an intriguing title:

Seasons Gleamings.

A Surprise Guest.

Follow The Focus.

Will I write these ? What did the poet intend?

You remembered about your forgetting. That’s a start.

What are the baseline known elements?

Resting into what works. Path of least resistance. The way I know ritual and repetition are what hold me.

I do the same things each day, not many, but religiously, by a schedule.

And I make the same food (refinement as a practice).

And I show up to [Writing Hour], and skip stones until I find a direction.

Carry water. Small tweaks to what is already working. Praise praise praise. Braver than the marines. Good job, Lucy. You watched the video. So fucking brave.

So brave

I love you, I believe in you, one step at a time. Fractal interconnected steps.

The winds will calm. You will remember something you care about. Let it surprise you. Let’s make tea. Let’s fill those water jugs. You are what the poet intended.

Come play with me, I love company

You are welcome to play with any of the concepts here in any way you like. Come play in the comments!

We are experimenting with experimenting, all experiments are useful experiments! You can brainstorm your own. What would go in your Good Morning, Lucy video? What patterns are we rewriting and what would help? We remember that People Vary.

And as always, you’re invited to share anything sparked for you while reading, themes you’re playing with, or add any wishes into the pot, into the healing zone, as a friend of mine said, who knows, the power of the collective is no small thing, and companionship helps.

May we find the supportive rituals, playful experiments & loving compassion we need, or something even better!

A request

If you received clues or perspective or just want to send appreciation for the writing and work/play we do here, I appreciate it tremendously. Working on some stuff to offer this coming year, but between traumatic brain injury recovery & Long Covid, slow going.

I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, it all helps with fixing what needs fixing, focused on making it through winter.

Or you can buy a copy of the my Monster Manual & Coloring Book if you don’t have it!

And if those aren’t options, I get it, you can light a candle for support (or light one in your mind!), share one of my posts with someone who loves words, tell people about these techniques, approaches and themes, send them here, it all helps, it’s all welcome, and I appreciate it so much. ❤️

The Fluent Self