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…