I have never really measured my own self-worth by wealth or material possessions. Growing up ‘modestly’, to put it nicely, I never had opportunity to do so. It has been instilled in me from a young age that possessions are fleeting, wealth is temporary.
I could own a big house and fill it with toys and still be miserable. I could chase after money until I had enough to keep generations of off-spring comfortable and never wanting, and still feel empty inside. And, even these can disappear over night.
So, I have long-held that the only things I can really own, the only things that can’t be taken from me; are my experiences, my memories, my words.
About five years ago my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It has been a difficult road, to say the least. The woman who I once thought strong enough to hold up the world, to watch her deteriorate is painful, frustrating and sometimes infuriating.
And it has completely uprooted my beliefs, my notions about life. I watch as she struggles to express herself, as she tries to unravel a memory now tucked away just out of reach. Any notions I had of permanence or owning my own thoughts has been capsized.
The only thing I thought I really owned, my mind, is just as flimsy and fleeting as anything else. My thoughts, ideas, memories and experiences; they are just as flimsy and corruptible as any material possession.
It shakes me to the core. At the same time, it gives me a renewed urgency to get my ideas and memories out of my head and onto the page.
Time is not on my side. Even my experiences can be taken from me. If I don’t share them, if I keep them locked away in my brain, there very well may come a day when they can no longer escape; and remain forever prisoners of my darkening mind.
© Robert Emmett McWhorter