I Forgot — Again

After work this evening I went shopping at Walmart and wound up locking my keys in the car. I had to call my hubby from work 30 miles away and have him come unlock the car.

That in itself doesn’t sound so bad. Everyone forgets something. Locks themselves out of something.

Not me.

To me this is the first sign of dementia. Or Alzheimer’s. Or something just as tragic.

I just know it.

I’m not making fun of those who have it. I have always had this feeling that this will be my path somewhere down the line. No one in my family has it, but my mom passed away at 54 so who knows what her fate would have been.

Locking myself out of my car does not bode well for my wanting to go to Paris for a week by myself, either.

I’m already nervous about the thought of taking a trip like this by myself. I am at the fantasy stage, the imagine-it-all stage. The pre-research stage. My family doesn’t know my desire — even my husband is pre-iffy. So convincing everyone that I can handle life alone in the city of Love for a week by myself is going to be a real hurdle.

I already am a fraidy cat when it comes to strangers and finding my way around new places. The thought of boarding a plane and going to a country where I don’t speak the language nor know the landscape is not just a case of turning left instead of right.

But I’m still up for it. My writing is still up for it.

I’m getting afraid my memory is following way far behind.

What if I lose my hotel key? What if I take the wrong bus and get dumped in a small French village where no one speaks English and I become the town buffoon?

I can just see this feeble old lady wandering around aimlessly saying “Parles-tu Anglais?

I know this is overreaction at the highest level.

But when you’ve been forgetting things lately like locking the bottom lock on the door or locking your keys in the car or wondering where the scratches on your shoulder came from (the cat, probably), traveling by yourself becomes secondary.

The Paris trip thing is the least of my worries. I forget this thing or that thing now, and before I know it I’ll be forgetting to put on underwear. You know what I mean.

Fear is like a multiplication table. At the beginning, the numbers are small. Easy to remember. But as you age, the multiplication table gets bigger and bigger. You try and keep up — you study, you make notes, you talk outloud to yourself. 

Yet you forget one thing and it’s back to the beginning of the multiplication table, with a few more people watching you perform. 

I know I have a long way to go before the mind disappears into that sweet fog of NaNaLand. But every time I slip, every time I mess up, it makes me — and others — take notice.

I’d rather take notice of cafes in Paris that serve a mean Coq au Vin….

 

The Process/World is Flawed…Not Me

Angry-faceThere is this big misconception of non-creative people that creative people have it easy.

That just because we haven’t majored in Accounting or Nuclear Physics (or even if we have, for those of you peeps out there), that all we have to do is sit and write or draw or curl some yarn around a little metal doodad and “art” appears.

There is also this big misconception of creative people that if it’s too easy it’s not Art. Well, fortunately for me, I’m contributing to that second misconception.

I have this wonderfully creative novel I’m editing with the dreamy, non-connected hopes of someday getting published, and/or printing it out for family and friends. I’ve added quotations at the beginning of each chapter which creatively explain what’s going to happen next. (Sorry for all the self-generated affirmations…it’s getting me through this…)

Well, imagine my reaction when, after REALLY REALLY editing the hell out of the first 13 chapters, I find NO quotes and little red stars with comments interjected on the page?

I have been editing the wrong copy all this time.

I even marked this one “EDIT THIS ONE” in the title of the file which sits on my desktop. I do have older versions, but they’re clearly marked with dates so I DON’T DO SOMETHING STUPID LIKE THIS.

I knew I had quotes for every chapter; I just couldn’t find the right copy. Later, rather than sooner, I did find this obscure file that said “Updated Chapters.” Like I would have known what that meant. So, throwing a little temper tantrum, I shut everything off with the intention of working it “later”.

But isn’t that stupid?

Isn’t that a waste of valuable creative time?

I have to believe that everyone goes through these things, or else I will start to believe that I am senile, demented, forgetful, and/or sloppy.

But back to what set off this little tirade.

I hate being stupid. I hate doing things twice. I hate forgetting. And I hate cleaning up my own messes.

I try and be organized; I try to slow down. I try not to jam 10 lbs. into a 5 lb. bag anymore. I try and stop and smell the lilacs and get some sun on my face and play with my grandkids.

So what this has to be, then, is not paying attention. That’s the same reason that people get hit by cars or text themselves off the road or burn themselves on the hot stove.

I know — these are small potatoes. That everything can be fixed. But it’s not just that. It’s rewriting and not clearly marking the differences or downloading images you’ve already downloaded or transposing numbers in a deadline. It’s the little things that eventually mess up the big things.

I am thinking my integrity is so fragile and my ego so bumpy and my fear of becoming senile so great that any little screw up is like looking through a magnifying glass. I don’t know if it’s getting older or never having confidence from grade school on that has made me judge every little thing I do.

The sad truth is, I know I’m not as flighty as I make myself out to be. In this case, I can compare documents, take the first half of one and set it atop the second half of the second. And the world will never know.

It’s the process that’s flawed, not me. And I’m going to stick to that.

For now.

 

Losing My Mind and My Keys

Why is it that every time we forget where we put the keys or to call someone back we fear we are heading into that cobalt abyss that does not return to sender?

We live our lives as fully and carefully as we can. We work hard, marry, raise children, and find a little spirituality along the way. We don’t waste time worrying about things like memory loss. Not when our jobs and our families take over our every moment. Yet, as we approach middle age, we find ourselves scrambling a lot more. We call home and leave messages for ourselves; we make notes to remind ourselves to make notes. The squares on our calendars are larger, our checklists longer. Why is that? Why are we so afraid that what we might forget might be something important?

They say there are many things we can do to keep ahead of the age curve that suddenly shoots downwards at about the age of 50. Baby boomers are refusing to go quietly into that bleak future: we are the leading market for Botox and Viagra, Sudoku and GPS. We don’t want to get wrinkles, lose our sex drive, soften our mental edge or get lost. We take Vitamin B, eat tofu, start jogging and begin a new career. We stop smoking, drinking, and eating fatty foods. We have plastic surgery, laser surgery and liposuction. Yet there is an inevitable truth following our every footstep. We are getting older. We are getting slower. What was important to us when we were 20 and 30 doesn’t correspond to our cosmic truths at 40 or 50 or 60. More body parts are starting to hurt, more facts are beginning to slip through our minds. Our color schemes are softening and our tolerance for bright light and cold weather is running low.

I suppose, in some cases, that’s a bad thing. I used to be able to spew out names of presidents and lines from Shakespeare like I was making a grocery list. Now I’m lucky if I can remember what I had for dinner two days ago. My husband says I don’t listen and I swear he needs a hearing aid. My kids say I am drunk when I’m merely relaxed, and I can’t drive anywhere without writing down the directions. I need bifocals to read and take my glasses off to read the fine print.

Yet there are good things about not having to be a sieve for every fact and figure that passes by. I don’t have to memorize speeches or do calculus or speak three foreign languages. I don’t have to pass tests, write research papers or explain the gross national product. I learn something new every day, and don’t worry about the things I don’t understand. What I can’t spell or pronounce I can still understand, even if it’s on some sub-atomic level.

But I do worry at times at my overly cautious behavior. More than once I have turned around half way to work to make sure I turned off the stove. My husband will swear he has explained something to me ten times before, yet I swear I’ve never heard a one. I don’t remember if I’ve taken my meds in the morning or in the evening or not at all. I feel my heart pound and I wonder if I’m having a heart attack. My leg feels a little swollen and I wonder if I have a blood clot. A migraine is an aneurism and a toothache is oral surgery. Adversity seems to be hitting those around me more frequency these days, and I don’t want to be stupid and ignore warning signs of something major in the works.

 As the second half of my life begins, I can’t help but worry that my future will be over before I know it. Children and grandchildren. Watching a sunset in Cancun or snowfall in the Northwoods. Weddings and graduations. Retirement. Sleeping in late. Conquering Mount Everest. Buying a scooter. There are so many things we want to do before we pass on to the next world. So many places to see, things to do, people to love. We fear not being able to remember the sights and the people we’ve spent our lives experiencing.

It is a challenge to live in the moment, to live each moment fully and completely and not constantly look over our shoulder for the Grey Shadow. We have no control over what diseases may take over our bodies and our minds. But we do have control over how we live our lives today. How we love, whom we love. How we spend our spare time now.

So the next time you forget your boss’s wife’s name or the name of your favorite team’s quarterback, know that who they are is never as important as what they mean to you. You will remember the important things, the things that have always mattered to you.

 The rest — are probably in the same place as your keys.

Come Out Come Out Wherever You Are…

I am lost. Utterly, depressingly, spastically lost. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep. I find myself retracing my steps, my thoughts, my habits over the past 3-4 days. And yet I am helplessly clueless. I can’t blog, I can’t enter contests — I feel like I’m constantly grasping at the great void.

I’ve lost my flash disk.

Now, for the population in general, that’s not a traumatic thing. After all, unless there’s porn or the secret to immortality on the disk (which there isn’t), everything that’s on it is someplace else as well. Say, on my laptop. Or backed up on my portable hard drive. No problemo. But of course, you already know it goes deeper than that. 

Practically everything that’s on my computer is on my flash disk: short stories, resumes, novels, photography, research. I suppose you could pick it up and learn all about me from the nonsense I save. And it’s not so much I’m concerned that someone will read my “inner thoughts” and “financial fiascos.”  It’s kinda like going for my yearly girly check up — seen one, seem them all. At this point in my life, nothing to get embarassed about. Yes, there are private things saved in files such as “girly things” and “Art’s House.” But nothing that would wind up on Entertainment Tonight.

No, the bigger, cosmic ramification from this game of hide-and-seek is that I’ve MISPLACED MY FLASH DRIVE.  That I didn’t put it BACK IN MY PURSE where it always goes. That I got distracted — again — ran off and climbed the Eiffel Tower or went running with the bulls in Spain and forgot to PUT IT AWAY.  That I’m senile, forgetful, and just this side of dementia.  I have retraced all steps that I can remember; dug around and into the sofa, my purse, my carry bag, my pockets, three tables, two dressers, the dog toy box, and even the dreaded junk drawer.  I’ve dug around in my drawers at work and under the seats of my two beater cars. And it’s not there. Nowhere. Nada.

How could I be so careless with something so important?  That means I can’t download something on the run…I can’t type a ditty at lunch time and bring it home to work on in the evening. I can’t bring great pictures to work to use as screen savers, and can’t find the family recipes my daughter-in-law’s dad let me download from his computer. I can’t stop at the library and do a little research, nor can I share some of my great music with my pals at work.  I can’t do any of the creative airy fairy things I’m used to doing because I’ve MISPLACED MY FLASH DRIVE.

What does that say about my state of mind? Am I in such a hurry to get to tomorrow that I forget to enjoy today? What’s next? Leaving for work late, forgetting to turn off the stove that made my grilled cheese breakfast sandwich? Filling a grocery cart full of groceries, just to get to the checkout and realize I’ve left my checkbook on the kitchen table? Going to the dentist’s office when really I’ve got an appointment at the eye doctor?  I feel like the girl who cried wolf.  Not me, I boast. I’ll never lose my flash disk. It’s always in one of two or three places. Tops. I’m always telling my husband, “Stop treating me like a kid! Quit ragging me!”  And yet here I am, ragging myself. Another notch in the “dummy” belt. Another slip on the ice.

All this berating just for a little thing that probably ended up as a cat toy somewhere, lying with saintly patience for me to stumble across it. It has unfinished stories waiting, summer pictures to be used as computer wallpaper, and recipes waiting to be cooked. It’s waving to me, it’s little lanyard quivering in devoted anticipation, knowing that sooner or later I will stumble upon it, and rejoice that the cosmos has once again stepped in to help. Perhaps then I will realize that it truly is the journey that has been what it’s all about, not the final destination.

Until then, if any of you have a little winjy you can send my way to help me find my little flash disk, I’d appreciate it. In return I’ll send you the great Artichoke Dip recipe that I know is filed away on it…