Lately I’ve been going around telling everyone I know, usually immediately after we’ve all experienced my latest brain fart, that I think there’s something seriously wrong with my brain. Could be a tumor, could be early onset Alzheimer’s; most of the time I plead middle age, though I’m not 100% convinced that it isn’t one of the former.
Whatever it is, it has me forgetting things people just told me, forgetting lyrics to songs I’ve song a thousand times at band rehearsal, missing turns into my own neighborhood, or driving right past places I fully intended to go to, not to mention the traditional “I walked into this room for something, did something else instead, having forgotten entirely what I came in here for in the first place, and walked out,” only to remember as I’m walking back to where I started, and starting the whole confounded process again. Which happens at least five times a day.
That I recall.
How much forgetfulness and general spaciness can one fairly attribute to age, and when should one start to worry? That’s the debate I’m constantly having with myself these days. It’s particularly worrisome to me, because the only claim I’ve ever had to being exceptional has been my brain and the nimble way it operates; or used to, anyway. And I have no physical gifts to fall back on if the ol’ gray matter fizzles out. I really don’t. I’m already gimpy; if I fail in the cognitive domain as well, there will be nothing left but to boil me down for glue.
As a coping strategy, I’ve adopted a policy of “do it when you think of it,” because if I don’t do it when I think of it, and I don’t write it down to do it later, I will forget it. Or I may just forget where I wrote it down. And as annoying as it is to forget things, it’s even more annoying to remember and forget and remember and forget again and remember again–oy…it’s exhausting. I get really mad at my brain when it does that.
So when I think of something I need to do, I tell myself to go do it. Immediately. Because otherwise, it will be lost to the byzantine twists and blind alleys of my 41-year-old mind. I know the data is stored there–because very often, I will remember clear as day the thing I was trying to remember 8 hours ago and couldn’t for the life of me conjure up then. But the pathways to the files are not reliable the way they used to be, and I can no longer count on them. Sometimes I think to myself, “I’ll remember…I don’t have to do it now.” And then I laugh derisively at myself, because I know better, and I go do it now, because I don’t need my 1,685th lesson in “You thought you’d remember, and now you’re all, ‘remember what?’ Nice one.”
When I follow my “do it when you think of it” policy, I find life has a greater immediacy, and a greater feeling of accomplishment, because shit gets done; the forgetful cannot afford to procrastinate, lest they lose all semblance of efficacy. I read this novel last spring (and I can only tell you that because I keep track of what I read on Shelfari; I initially thought I’d read it last year until I looked it up) where this lady had an accident, and couldn’t create new long-term memories, so every time she went to sleep, she forgot everything and had to start over again the next day. This is probably what would happen to me without that policy.
At this point in my life I have no choice but to live in the now. I didn’t need to go to a retreat, or meditate, or anything like that to learn this; I merely had to keep breathing, and Time took care of it for me. I have to carpe momentum, every minute of the day, otherwise…whoosh…it’s gone, perhaps never to return. And if, despite all my efforts, I forget it anyway, well then, it was obviously unimportant, and I have let it go, painlessly and without effort, like the last brown, dry leaf from an October maple. Which is what I will tell the electric company when they call to ask where last month’s payment is. And perhaps that is the true gift of getting older: either you live in the moment, or you forget and don’t care. That’s a gift worth remembering.
If only I could.