It was 9:30 this morning when I suddenly realized that I’d forgotten to write my blog for today. This has only happened a few times in the four-and-a-half years that I’ve been posting, and those other times, I caught it earlier in the morning so there was no apparent lapse.
I’m getting older. And memory lapses are becoming more frequent.
I’m well past the stage when it felt novel to walk into a room and not recall what I was trying to find. The only reason I can locate my keys before I leave the house is that I force myself to put them in my purse or on the kitchen table when I come home—and I don’t always remember to do so.
Last Friday I went grocery shopping and wandered around the parking lot for what felt like a good 10 minutes before I located my car. For a fleeting few seconds, I wondered if it had been stolen.
I’m getting worse at recalling names—occasionally, even of people I know well. It’s as if a curtain goes down in my brain, hiding the information. The more I strain to remember so as not to embarrass myself, the thicker the curtain becomes. Over the weekend I read an article that explained why our brains aren’t wired to remember names as well as faces—which provided some relief, or, at least, a good excuse.
Amidst the flurry of preparations for our recent trip to Italy, I tried doing a load of laundry and was completely bewildered by the fact that our reliable washing machine refused to start properly. Why? Because I was pushing the power button instead of the start button. (This I figured out after I read the trouble-shooting section of the user manual, which, fortunately, I keep on top of the washer.)
Then there is the challenge of taking all my medications on time. I know, I know, I should use a pill minder. I hate them. I don’t know why. Maybe because they are a reminder that I can’t remember. It’s an act of defiance (or sheer ego) to take my pills morning and night without having to rely on some device other than my brain. But there have been far too many times when I can’t recall if I took them or not, and I realize, much as I don’t want to admit it, that timely medications are too important to mess with.
I was discussing this with a friend last week who is also in his early 60s, and we agreed that the real issue is too much multitasking. I forget when I’m not paying attention—to where I left my keys or parked my car, or how many cups of flour I poured into the food processor to start the bread dough, or whether I actually told Al about my schedule or just thought about it, or when I took my pills. So much of the time, I’m doing one task on autopilot while my mind is in a totally different space.
There are apps for that, of course. We can do a lot more these days because we can offload so much to our smartphones—medication reminders, parked car locators, key finders and more. But that requires remembering where the smartphone is. (Try calling it when you’ve forgotten that you left it on silent from the night before.)
The only lasting answer: Slow down, do one thing at a time, be mindful. And, above all, accept the fact that aging is inevitable.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.
Image Credit: Szilard Gabor Fulop