Every year when my June birthday rolls around, it seems imperative that I write something about aging. Because I am. And I’m constantly noticing changes – some huge, some subtle – taking place in my body and mind. For instance, I am having more and more trouble remembering stuff.
Now there are real serious, sad illnesses that result in acute memory loss, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about your everyday, run-of-the-mill, I’m-a-52-year-old-mom forgetting stuff.
Are you familiar with Neville Longbottom from the Harry Potter books? You know the jaggedy-toothed kid who helped save the world in a cardigan sweater? Well, in the first book, his scarily stern grandmother has had enough of his forgetting and sends him a “remembrall” – a weird ball that is supposed to glow red when you’ve forgotten something. Well, if that were a real thing, and I had one, it would pulse scarlet 24 hours a day! Because odds are, I’ve forgotten something at any given time. Usually more than one thing!
On the upside, it’s quite easy to forgive and forget now. … But it’s mostly all downside. For instance, one time the boys had a hair cut appointment at 1 p.m. The problem was, I put 1:30 on my calendar. I'm not sure quite how that happened, but I can't say I'm surprised. That kind of stuff happens to me all the time. I was just sorry that it impacted the coiffeurse that time. She was cool about it, though, to my relief. I would guess it's because she's not any younger than me and occasionally experiences that same kind of brain fart. And if we're calling them brain farts, then I'd have to describe my brain as downright flatulent.
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I’ve forgotten meetings, appointments, work tasks, elements of my son Bill’s lunch, items he was supposed to bring to school, and once, I forgot to pick him up on an early dismissal day. And when the school secretary called to tell me I said a very bad word!! I’ve forgotten to defrost the chicken, to add yeast to the breadmaker, and to mail that important check. Once I forgot the PIN number on an ATM card I’ve had for 30 years. When we travel it’s a given that I will forget at least one crucial item – pharmaceuticals, phone charging cord, deodorant …
I blame it on age. And the menopause that looms large in my future. And on just the sheer volume of stuff I am supposed to remember. After I got married, I had more responsibility ... then came the kid, my own business, and BOOM! The scope of my mental duties exploded! AND just as I was entering my 40s!
On top of all the stuff I have to do, I am also trying to make time and space for a few things I WANT to do ... like read a book or watch “Game of Thrones.” A by-product of this little problem is that I feel guilty doing fun stuff. I mean, maybe if I were concentrating on the important things, I would be able to get them done. Like when I started writing a blog, I kept thinking “You already have enough to deal with; if you spend time writing a blog everyone will know for sure that you aren’t even trying to keep up.”
You know that movie, “Silver Linings Playbook”? It’s about a guy who has mental problems, and when he encounters an obstacle, his therapist tells him “You need a strategy.” Well, my insufficient memory is an obstacle, and I need a strategy. There is a lot of information out there about how to deal with hot flashes and other aspects of the menopause to come, but I have yet to see any tips on how to deal with the mental fog that surely is a part of this beautiful time of life and its forerunner peri-menopause.
I’ve tried making lists, sending myself emails, tickler files, organizational charts, iCal alarms, reminders from Siri… and all work to a certain degree – especially when taken together. Thing is, though, they only help if you’ve remembered all the things you need reminders for …
This is the part of the article where I open myself up to your suggestions. Do you have a system that works for you? A tip or “hack” as the kids say? Or maybe just an encouraging word? I could use all of those things.
And if you offer a hint that helps, I’ll never forget you for it. Probably.
Julie Moore is a graphic designer living in Chapel Hill, NC. Please send her your memory enhancement ideas (or just write to say hi!) at firstname.lastname@example.org.