Cat From The Mat


I seem to be losing all sorts of things these days…my mother, body parts, words, patience, and belongings.  About ten years ago, I bought a Prana black denim jacket.  I loved wearing it when biking.  It had the perfect inside pockets for my keys and phone.   However, recently I misplaced it. This is unusual and rather unlike me, as I still have souvenirs from childhood and clothing from high school. It’s a bummer to have lost this item of clothing.  But things come and go.  What's more upsetting is the reality that I have the capacity to mislay something, mumbles the recovering perfectionist under her breath.

As I acclimate to my new normal of life with estrogen and progesterone positive breast cancer, I am under the treatment of hormone blocking systemic therapy.  Thus, I have been propelled into menopause at age 50.   This means that I now have constant fluctuations of hot flashes, irritability, and if I can find the right word...forgetfulness.

Unlike my mum who could recollect everything with specificity, I never have had a great memory, as far as recalling the past.  I once asked my philosophy teacher Dr. Douglas Brooks about this topic.  He said that as we age, we have so much in our memory bank that we cannot possibly retrieve it all at once.  I like his perspective on forgetting, since it offers self-compassion and appreciation for the vast breadth and depth of being chronologically-gifted.   I attribute this loss of memory to also having the ability to process things and move on, so that the past no longer overshadows the present.  

In 2005, I was back in my hometown of New Orleans, helping out with the post-Katrina efforts.  When riding my bike one December day in the park (sans helmet…yes, I have since learned my lesson), I collided with another cyclist.  I was thrown from my bike, landed on my head, and incurred a concussion.  I woke up in the trauma bay, with no memory of the accident.  There were bystanders who later filled me on the details, and to this day, I still do not remember a thing.  

I was told later that during my concussion, I did not know my age or the present year.  But somewhere in the depths of my mind, I could recite my childhood home’s telephone number without hesitation.  I find this intriguing.  Could it be that the inability to remember is a built-in mechanism of self-protection from a physical trauma?

Earlier this year, I was again under general anesthesia as a follow-up surgery to my double mastectomy.   Being “put under” is an intentional choice of not experiencing such an invasive operation. And yet, in not knowing what is occurring for several hours, does this help or hinder the grieving process of losing a part of myself?  Some things might be best forgotten.  But does our body truly forget if the mind is not involved?

I have just returned from teaching empathy trainings and yoga workshops in Japan.  It had been a while since I was been back in the country.  Over my past two visits, I learned just enough Japanese to get around and to be polite.  But without the constant practice, I was having to learn the language all over again.

Each morning, I would wake up with words or phrases in my head, which I had forgotten that I already knew.  For example, I awoke saying “Itadakimasu” which is Japanese for “let’s eat” or “bon appétit.”  Where was it hiding in my brain?  At what point did that memory decide to reveal itself?  How much information do I have stored in my body that I cannot retrieve…as of yet?

In Hindu mythology, the Ananda Tandava is known as Nataraja’s Dance of Bliss. Representing steadiness and movement, Nataraja dances upon the character Apasmara, whose name means “ignorance” or “forgetfulness.”  According to the story, we forget so that we can enjoy in the delight of remembering.  This play of concealment and revelation makes me wonder about my capacity to forget something as experience embodiment.  Yoga invites is to learn to playfully dance through life.

The next time you forget, please remember this: enjoy the game of hide and seek.    Or if memory doesn't serve, then just fahgetaboutit!  And I do hope that my jacket has found a new appreciative home.

Matane, (Japanese for “see you later”)


Cat From the Mat
October 2018 blog