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word jumble soup

January 4, 2013

airy, aerie / berry, bury / carry; chary, cherry; contrary / dairy / equerry /

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I just finished reading The Mislabeled Child by Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide. I got a bunch of things wrong, or at least incomplete, about why I am the way I am.

Apparently the reason I think non-verbally has nothing to do with my learning style. The Eides say 2/3 of people are auditory-verbal thinkers (who think in words); the other 1/3 are visual-spatial (who think in imagery).

Despite having to translate all of our thoughts and ideas into words before we can share them with others, lots of visual spatial thinkers are highly creative, and many become writers. They say Einstein was one of us.

Something I didn’t realize doesn’t happen with everybody: I experience my thoughts and ideas as a gestalt, a big interrelated picture. So there’s no obvious place to start talking about any of it. No matter where you jump in, there’s backstory, there are complications and implications; everything tangles together. That’s why visual spatial thinkers often ramble while they talk (or write, such as in school), and have trouble with organizing their thoughts. Probably why we have trouble organizing other things too. Maybe that’s why I love meandering! I do know that when I have to be sequential, I don’t quite know how to do it. Things diminish in importance when I turn my attention away, but they don’t end.

Oh, which brings me to types of long-term memory.

“There are many different subtypes of long-term memory, each of which stores a different kind of information pattern in a particular part of the brain. Generally speaking, these long-term memory subtypes can be classified in two big groups: personal memories and impersonal memories. […] Personal (also called autobiographical or episodic) memory gets its name because it stores patterns that deal with personal experiences [which are] highly contextual in the sense that they contain information about things that happened to you at particular times and in particular places. Often your personal memories are also connected with this specific feelings, emotions, or sensory experiences that you had at the time. […] Impersonal (or semantic) memory deals with facts that are impersonal in nature. They don’t relate to you personally, or to events in your life . . . they are decontextualized with respect to time, particular place, and emotion, and they tell you nothing about when, where, or under what circumstances you formed your memories.  […]

Children . . .who favor the use of personal memory learn best through experience. These children thrive on novelty, humor, surprise, the flash of insight, and the ‘aha!’ moment. Their interest must be provoked rather than solicited, and they often appear distractible, since their attention is easily hijacked by anything alluring. […] Children like this . . . need to use their powerful personal memories to store the facts that most children’s store in impersonal memory.” (pp. 31-32)

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My personal memory capacity is very strong, while my impersonal memory capacity is very weak. I can tell you exactly where I was when my mother taught me to read because it was highly contextual: we cuddled together on one end of her very long, uncomfortable, ugly ivory-with-green-flocking couch. The lamp at that end didn’t throw light very far. She used flash cards, which I loved. It was our special time together, just the two of us.

Those are some of my happiest memories with my mother.

I didn’t realize until I started writing this post that those memories are probably why I was so emotionally attached to the couch, even though it was hard, it was ugly, and it was really long. When my mother decided to finally get rid of it, I was an adult, and I begged her to give it to me. Realistically, though, you’d need a moving van, maybe even a truck, to move it anywhere, and I didn’t have one (and couldn’t afford to hire one), so I didn’t get to keep the couch. Objectively, I didn’t like the couch, but I never noticed that, because to me the couch = those few precious memories with my mother.

People who hoard anchor their memories in tangible objects, and the spatial disposition and arrangement itself of those objects. I bet that was part of the ‘mystique’ of the couch as well.

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I have very specific memories of how I learned my times tables. I’m terrible at rote learning (probably because of the impersonal memory capacity thing). But it just so happened that multiplication was taught when I was still young enough that my father spent some time with me, very occasionally. And when my father learned multiplication, as a boy, he also had trouble with it, but his brother just a year older made a game out of it, and they competed to see who could learn more. I was enthralled with this story because my father was willing to reenact it with me. (That particular brother of his was also my godfather, whom my father thought was the smartest person in their family. So anything that ‘brought me closer to’ Uncle X was especially wonderful.) For school, we had to learn through the 10’s, but I learned through the 12’s, then through the 15’s, and on my own, I learned all the squares to 25.

By the time my father lost interest in me, I realized I loved math for its own sake. And I still do.

I think I know exactly when my father lost interest in (helping me with) my school work. I was in fourth grade, and we were learning the state capitals. Maybe it was one night at dinner that somehow Arizona came up in conversation. I was very proud of knowing that its capital was Flagstaff. My father was brought up short. He thought the capital was Phoenix. I insisted it wasn’t; we had just learned it, and I was sure I was right. Whenever there was a dispute over facts, we went right to the Encyclopedia Britannica set to straighten things out. And EB confirmed that I was correct.

We lived in Illinois. We’d only been to Arizona once, when I was a toddler, and not to Flagstaff. Probably most adults could not name all 50 state capitals, and why would they need to. It doesn’t matter.

This ordinary night became a hinge in my personal history. My father couldn’t accept that he was wrong about something. He insisted the encyclopedia must be wrong, even though it had always been the final word before. He wanted to track down other sources, authority figures who would tell him he was right.

At first I was confused. This was just a fact, and not one that impacted our lives at all. Why get so upset? Then I felt sick to my stomach. Because I realized with dismay that my father didn’t enjoy helping me learn; my father enjoyed knowing more than me. And once he didn’t know more than me, he dropped me like a hot potato. He never spent time with me, talking about school, or much of anything else, again.

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And maybe that’s why I hated history until college. Because my father loves history, and he eagerly discussed it with the elder of my 2 brothers, then the younger, at every opportunity. But he always had to be the last word.

And this is probably definitely why my father was never interested in science, always a passion of mine. He doesn’t have a scientific bent, and therefore, I would have to be the expert. Which would be intolerable.

Which actually reminds me of a specific incident that has always bothered me. I had been married for several years, so I was at least 30. I had recently spent time with my parents. During that visit, my father had talked about how much smarter his brothers were than he was. I always hated how he put himself down. But I knew saying something about it directly would not go over well. I hit on what I thought was a subtle way to maybe redirect his usual thought pattern. I wrote my parents a letter in which I explained genetics in this context: “hey, dad! And mom! Since 4 of your 4 kids are athletic, and intelligent, and creative, that stuff had to come from somewhere! And it came from you guys! (So stop beating yourselves up!)”

I ran across a copy of that letter recently. As I reread it, my heart was full, remembering all the tenderness and kindness I infused it with. And felt like I’d made an important contribution to the world by doing so.

It went over like a lead balloon. My father wrote back an angry letter, remonstrating with me for how I ‘always lectured him’. My mother didn’t respond at all.

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fairy, ferry / gregarious / hairy, harry / jerry / marry, merry /

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So, I haven’t blogged for a week, partly because I felt angry and kind of stymied by realizing I’m tactile-kinesthetic, rather than visual or verbal. Why didn’t I get schooling directed at my needs? Accommodations? Something? Because surely kids who receive instruction based on their preferred learning style do better, right?

It turns out, No. No matter what their learning style, kids (and presumably adults) do well when instruction engages multiple senses, the more the better. So yeah, if I’d ever gotten instruction in that addressed my tactile-kinesthetic preference, it would’ve really helped, but it would’ve done that because it was amplifying and engaging what I was already getting.

Beyond that, I have synesthesia, so I know stuff in my brain is cross wired. In their book, the Eides include a table that lists ‘types of sensory memory patterns’, of which there are eight:

  1. Visual,
  2. Sound,
  3. Touch,
  4. Muscle movement,
  5. Taste,
  6. Smell,
  7. Balance,
  8. Interoception

I may not be primarily visual, but colors and shapes and symbols and maps and charts and graphs all help me organize information. In fact, they’re all part of ‘information design’, which I have strong aptitudes in, which probably helped me be a good GIS analyst.

I wouldn’t say I’m auditory at all, but I like the sounds of words. Some of my poems grow out of combinations of words that ‘sound good’ (to me) together, downplaying their meanings. I try to come up with stuff that (at least) sort of makes sense, even if it’s fairly surreal—easier to do with poetry than prose. My anagram poems definitely arise that way. Names I devise are the same kind of thing–they have to ‘sound good’ to me. I’ve noticed that many names I devise or use tend to end in vowel sounds. So, Laima/Laiima, Kelia/Kelliava, Amelie/Amelia, Anneke (and even Pqw) for me and aspects of me, but also Gemneo, Kekino, Tiwhao, Cressida, Tenimah, Anamara for others.

Taste and smell are really really important. These days I use taste metaphors all the time. And I’m starting to learn how to think creatively with my sense of taste. Whereas my sense of smell already holds almost-legendary status with Spouse. And it certainly gives me data I couldn’t get any other way.

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nary / parry; prairie / raree / scary; sherry / tarry, terry / very, vary / wary, wherry

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We’ve recently cleared out sufficient packed boxes so that we have room for our mini trampoline. I’m loving it because it’s often too cold to go out walking, and pacing around our tiny apartment is often insufficient to push my brain into a higher gear, but just a small amount of jumping or bouncing will do it.

I’ve gotten some really great ideas for writing and other things while I’m bouncing. It’s also soothing when my emotions are jumbled; it helps me see a way forward.

Yesterday I visited a local hardware store, and bought a bunch of mostly little things made out of metal. My hands were/are ecstatic: they have ideas for things we can make. Things that I don’t know how to make, but I’m going to have fun learning, by doing.

I’ll also be getting books from the library about how to make/do certain things. I’m pretty ignorant about everything hands-on. It’s time to change that.

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