Aging Boomer brains, like aging computers inevitably experience system faults. It takes longer to boot up, the RAM and ROM seem seriously deficient, unfamiliar viruses are compromising the hard-drive and the memory seems slow to respond, overloaded or just plain frozen. And no amount of head-banging, foot-stomping and swearing seems to resolve things. I’ve recently developed a coping mechanism for this latter problem (memory), however, which is so effective I’ve decided to share.
We’ve all experienced walking into a room to get something then can’t remember what we came for. Even when I’m standing in the garage and my options are relatively limited, I stand there mentally retracing my steps to figure out what I came for. I see two cars, a snow shovel, some lawn fertilizer and a wall lined with tools. Damn. Back to the kitchen I go; then I see the large platter sitting on the counter. That’s what I wanted! The step-ladder, to put the platter on the top shelf. Back to the garage and hopefully I remember what I came for this time. Maybe if I run, I’ll retain it.
The other day I found myself in the bathroom wondering what on earth sent me in a rush from the kitchen to the bathroom. Another retreat, revisit, then, ah ha! I went back after the empty tea mug sitting on the bathroom counter that needed to go into the dishwasher. At times, I’ve resorted to sticking yellow Post-Its on my forearm in case I get sidetracked and lose all control of my mental processes. Crib notes written in ballpoint pen on my palm proved embarrassing and fashionably questionable.
As explained in an early blog posting (click here to read My Gray Matter is Going Green), research suggests we’re not getting stupider. Our Boomer brains are simply discarding rarely used data to make room for new input. I really like that analogy—makes me feel like I’m not losing memory, merely defragging my hard drive and updating. Very reassuring. But that doesn’t solve the problem of getting to the kitchen and forgetting what you came for. Nor, why I can remember the name of every single face in my Grade One class picture but I can’t remember my own cell phone number.
If a Post-It note is not in the immediate vicinity, my fall-back solution is to verbally say whatever it is I’m looking for and keep repeating it until my mission is accomplished. Try it; it works. Although people might wonder why you’re wandering around muttering toilet paper, toilet paper, toilet paper or keys, keys, keys.
Memory is a tricky thing. Certain learned skills like riding a bicycle become permanently ingrained but if we don’t stick to our knitting, we forget the difference between knit and purl and can’t execute either. It’s been decades since The Stones released Satisfaction but is there a Boomer alive who can’t still sing along and remember every word? Obscure French vocabulary I learned fifty years ago sometimes comes back but I can’t go grocery shopping for three items without a list. I can’t even remember dinner dates with friends unless I write it down. Yep. My main frame could really use an update. I’ll make a note of that and get right on it as soon as I remember where I put my Post-Its.
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