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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Importance of Daydreams

So simple and yet so powerful, memories are such a fickle things. Tonight I was siting in the shower and I closed my eyes, and I remembered Colorado. I was walking through the oval, the trees in the height of fall: all reds, yellows and vivid orange. On all sides were the buildings of CSU, so ordinary then and yet so powerful now. It was heart wrenching to open my eyes and see the gray shower tiles.

This is not the first time I've zoned out and gone off back to Fort Collins. Its hard not to do this some times having spent so much memorable time in Fort Collins and if you ask me where home is, I would have to say there. Calling up these these memories is sometimes my choice, but the exercise I'm being put through often activates stronger memories (and in one of the quirks of muscle memory) bringing back details I didn't know I had.

The first time this happened, I was in the nursing home. One of the rehabilitation technologies used there is electrical stimulation, which innervate the muscles making them contract. When the muscles in my calf contracted for the first time, it felt like I was running. Suddenly, I was back in Fort Collins. Me and my roommate had goaded each other in running, with the hope of getting both of us into something resembling our former in-shape selves. I was picking up my feet, running past CSU and into old town. With my muscle contracting the way used to on its own, it felt like I was running. I opened my eyes and the rehab gym was in front of me again. It was so real and so sudden it took effort to hold back the emotions that suddenly flooded over me.

While not as vivid or shocking as the first time this happened, the feel of the electrodes on different parts of my legs bring back memories. The calves feel like running in Colorado, but also bring back memories of long hard runs with my Dad over the hills of Seattle. I remember that at the part of the hill where it got really steep had a house with a landscape that changed with the seasons (they trimmed their hedges into strange and interesting shapes and I got see them shift, as they were on our regular route). The quads bring back sprinting through the halls of Ballard High School during wrestling practice. I've had notoriously bad memory for things like this but when I'm running, I can see myself running past the different lockers, pinpointing exactly where all my friends used to have theirs. It brings back the smell of sweat, the ache of muscles that have been pushed hard, and the echoes of the hall as we ran furiously back and forth.

Here at Kennedy Krieger they have an electrical stimulus bicycle, which powers the bike through a combination of electrical stimulation, my body's own movements, and an internal motor (regulating between the three using an internal computer). In the time I spent in Fort Collins before I got my truck Betty I rode my bike everywhere. The bike motion is enough to trigger memories of biking furiously to class, to work, and to many other destinations to play; I spent a good twenty minutes of the bike ride remembering the route to Big City Burrito, including an exquisite reliving of eating my favorite burrito(A potato burrito with chicken mole on a regular wheat tortilla, cheese but no onions, corn salsa, sour cream, ranch, and Mad Antony's hotsause). The memory is so strong I can remember every ingredient, every flavor, every juicy delicious bite. It made my mouth water and my lunch that followed after the workout seem rather sad and bland.

It is easy to sink into all these memories of better times but the memories are painful after all that happened. They're part of a life that I haven't been a part of for months now. It'll be months more until I'm part of it again, and I'll have come back changed (denying my own change would be pointless and possibly harmful). Though I wish I could be present in my friends lives and they wish they were here for mine, distance and time play a role in all our lives that can't be undone. Not that we have much choice. Our lives have shifted and we now have memories in the place that our loved ones used to be.

I don't mean this to be a negative sounding post, because it isn't. I can remember the people and places in my life as though they were part of me; the mere movement of my body is enough to trigger to happy moments of my past. They gave me a memory of joy in what would otherwise be a hard and uncomfortable experience. So now I have a ton of new memories, that of my friends and family bringing me through at the worst of times.

My advice to every reader, take five memories of your life now. Make them things that you want to remember when you need a reminder of what you enjoy most, when you're still carefree and happy (I pray that nothing bad should happen, but this is how it will look in hindsight). I'm thankful for all the gains that I've made and know I have some new memories to make up ahead. I'll follow my own advice and in a later post let you know what mine are for my life now.

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