Forgotten Faces – Nameless

Forgotten Faces

Forgotten Faces ““ Nameless

This summer I wandered into an antique district looking for interesting things to photograph. Even though dust and time had transformed many of the treasures from their beautiful, shiny and new state into tattered and worn-out forms, I enjoyed my findings””that is, until I came to a corner display in the back room of one of the shops. There on the table propped up against some old books were photographs of lost and forgotten faces. How did these images of nameless strangers no longer remain in the possession of family or friends whom they would have once been connected to? Next to these framed images was a box full of seemingly hundreds of black-and-white and sepia-toned photographs that would have once lived in the albums of those who knew them. I stood looking at the eyes of those strangers looking back at me from their framed pedestals and thought, “Such a shame. How could they not be treasured enough for someone to want to hold on to them? Were these nameless strangers forgotten faces in life as well?”

This got me thinking about how many people touch my life yet through lack of reciprocation on my part may feel as nameless strangers. I have a confession; it is a weakness I had recognized years ago but never understood it to its depth until just recently. I have difficulty connecting names with faces. I’m sure I’m not alone in this shortcoming or flaw. I use the word flaw rather than fault because of my belief that it is a defect rather than a choice”¦ to a degree. Let me explain.

This morning I opened a document that contained a photo directory of close to 100 faces and names of women who are members of an organization I’ve belonged to for years. Those faces are not just of friends; a small number are strangers who I’ve not yet met. But the majority of these women I’ve known for years and, in some cases, decades.

As I scrolled through the directory, I decided to look at each line of faces without revealing the names listed below to test how many names I could recall. A few lines scrolled by and nothing. I mean NONE. No names came to mind. Nine, ten, “¦ fifteen faces scrolled by and of those fifteen I could only retrieve a few names from my not-so-impressive memory. “Oh no! This is crazy. What is wrong with me?”

As I sat there peeking at each name below the photos, I realized that there is possibly more to this than I imagined. A few weeks back I watched an interview of a woman who claimed to not have the ability to remember faces. I recall listening to that interview and thinking “Well, that sure sounds like me. Maybe not as extreme, but I definitely am a bit challenged in that area.” She explained that there is an area of the brain that is connected to this type of name/face recognition, and that, in her case, her inability to make those connections are so serious that she doesn’t recognize faces of close friends and family members after a short absence. My problem is definitely not that serious, but how much does something have to affect day-to-day living before it is considered serious enough to address?

I then started to look at my method of communication over the years and began to realize that this weakness really has influenced my relationships. I don’t connect with neighbors because very often I don’t remember their names so I avoid regular contact to avoid embarrassment or shame. I find that I am apt to be better with people with whom I have day-to-day associations (most of the time). The problem comes when long periods pass where I’ve not made a specific connection with a person’s name and face. It can be rather embarrassing, especially when there are so many friends I seldom see.

Years ago this became such a concern that I created a list of the 500 top names in my life and did a picture/word association to those names. That way, if I ever was introduced to someone I could create a name or object connection to their face in order to retrieve their name in the future. I recall a young girl I had successfully used this technique with. Her name was Chelsea, and I did a visual recall that would force me to see her ear in the shape of a seashell, or a “shell” from the “sea.” It wasn’t long into this process that I was able to recall her name most of the time. So, I did learn to manage. The only problem was in remembering to do this technique when I meet people. Laziness has gotten in my way, but now that a connection has been made to my life and how this challenge has affected it adversely, I have decided to make a more concerted effort to change.

I know my journey here will some day be forgotten by many, yet I feel a need to expose my weakness to bring light to the importance of not lessening my relationship with others. Many of you have touched and enriched my life, and I owe it to you not to feel like forgotten faces. So, if you hear me call you “My Friend,” it may not be because I have forgotten your name, but if it is I need you to know that because of this I do not treasure you less. Embarrassment is no reason for isolation. Through this understanding I owe it to my friends and neighbors to no longer put up barriers that keep them out. So, by putting pride aside, the not-so-perfect me steps forword with my secret exposed, and in doing so I’m making sure that those of you who step into my world will not leave it feeling less valued.

In Other’s Words:

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

~Mother Teresa~


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