“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.”
–The White Queen, Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll
Once upon a time, I had an exceptional memory. Provided I was paying attention to begin with, I could remember just about anything with impressive detail. But these last few months, I’ve been forgetting things. Scads of “to-dos” going un-done, simply because I can’t remember to do them.
Little Man watches me with mild amusement most mornings, as I walk around the house repeatedly saying aloud all the things I need to do before we leave. Occasionally he interrupts me, just to mess with me. Yesterday morning, I felt pretty good. Teeth were brushed and car keys and lunches were in hand. I left the house with confidence that I was on top of things. And then Little Man smiled at me and said “mom, I’m sooo excited about my birthday party Sunday!”
I don’t know what has happened to my brain, but this memory problem is becoming a real nuisance. Some friends suggest that I should get a planner or make lists because, well clearly, the absence of a list is why I forgot to put my shoes on yesterday. My attention span is awful enough as it is. But these days I can’t even remember what it is that distracts me from one thing to the next. Eventually the synapses will fire again, but of course, not in the moment I need them to. So friends sometimes get texts at midnight when the thought re-surfaces, but by then they’ve forgotten what I was talking about.
And it’s generally really random, senseless stuff I’m forgetting, too, like the point I’m trying to make as I’m in the middle of a sentence. Or, you know…words. And I don’t mean esoteric words. The other day I couldn’t remember the word “rain.” So I stammered like a foreigner just learning the English language, “it’s supposed to…um, you know…the wetness. From the clouds,” as I gestured toward the sky like a poorly trained mime.
Were I able to choose what I’m forgetting, there are many memories that I would happily abandon. Like a few particular boys I dated, or the time I was 13 and thought it would be a great idea to cut my hair really short. But, of course, those aren’t the things I forget. Those become part of a file that will one day make a well-meaning therapist scratch her head and say “I don’t know, you got me.” I used to think that, if I could have an X-Men-style mutant super power, I would want mind control. Now I’d be happy just to have the power to remember to put the wet laundry in the dryer.
It’s a real hindrance to my creative productivity, too. When I’m driving, or pretending to listen to my boss, I have brilliant ideas! But unless I have a sticky note in front of me, the ideas are gone before my next cup of coffee.
So lately I have been putting some effort into figuring out what, exactly, my problem is. Too much MSG? Too little sleep? Men In Black? Little Man suggested over dinner last night “Don’t worry, mom. Maybe it’s just because you’re old.” I smiled back at him, proud of his honesty and thoughtfulness, and thought “it must really suck that Santa is bringing you a Barbie Doll for Christmas.”
As a 26-year-old (*ahem), I am certain it can’t be my age. No, after much reflection, I think I’ve figured it out. I just have too much to do. So, now I’m faced with the question “what in my life is expendable?” Cleaning is the first thing that comes to mind. I can think of few activities more painful or counter-productive to a happy life than the never-ending ordeal of washing this or scrubbing that just to prove that I really know how to misdirect my energy. I suppose I could hire cleaning people to take on this particular soul-crushing time consumer, but I am far too cheap to pay other people to do what I’m fully capable of doing, myself. Plus, I get really creeped out by the thought of strangers touching my delicates.
I could stop working out…but then, I’d have to eat less. And, well, that’s just not going to happen. There’s also the job…but then that is some awfully fun daydreaming time, and everyone needs that.
So, it seems there’s not much left to eliminate from the ever-expanding to-do list, which means I either need to invest in Ginko Biloba and Omega-3s, or resign myself to perpetual absentmindedness and hope people find it charming. I suppose I could always put “stop worrying about forgetting things” on my to-do list. But then I’d probably forget to look at the list.© Racheal Lee Bradford