I got up the other morning ready to start my day with a plan of action clearly defined in my mind. Ready to get to it and clear some of those to-do items from my activity list, I was dressed, fed, a nice cup of steaming coffee in my hand, and heading to the door. As usual, I checked my pockets before closing the automatically-locking door behind me – good thing too as I had forgotten my car keys! No biggie – I turned around and headed to the little ceramic bowl where I always put my keys. But they weren’t there. Where had I left my keys?
I retraced my steps from the previous day trying to remember exactly where I had wandered upon arriving home the night before. Did I go to the kitchen first? Or did I head straight upstairs? Had I emptied my pockets or did I leave the contents in my pants? Where the heck were my keys?
Forget About It
One curse of growing older is the unavoidable reality of a diminished memory. How easy it becomes to misplace something and how much more challenging it seems to finally track down the missing culprit. We used to be proud of the speed at which we could access nimble memory banks to quickly call out the name of a song we heard on the radio. It took but brief moments to associate the name with the face of a movie star. And Jeopardy was fun as opposed to what now more commonly proves to be confounding.
The gradual forgetfulness happens over time and to varying degrees but it will be our companion long into our retirement years.
Various “mind exercises” are available to fight back – crossword puzzles, Sudoku, bridge, memory games – and all likely have some positive impact. We can make a conscious effort to focus more on exactly what we are doing rather than act out of habit – for example saying out loud “I am putting my keys in the cat box” so we have a better chance of recalling the exact location. We can attempt to slow down our hectic pace of living so actions do not become a blur with little significance.
But the reality is we senior citizens are just not as sharp as we used to be (no offense intended – one senior to another).
Fear not -I believe I have discovered a silver lining. Our senior moments and dulling memories can be a blessing in disguise. What is he talking about you ask…just listen:
I am happy to forget
How terribly burdensome it would be if we remembered EVERY detail of our lives up to this point. What we ate, what we said, what we heard said, what we dreamed, what we did right and what we did wrong. If we remembered everything how could we even hope to keep it all straight?
The saying goes that women “forget” the real pain of childbirth or at least experience a softening around the edges or there would be very few second children born let alone number three or beyond.
I think that this softening of memories can be a positive thing. A few examples:
- Whatever it was that my wife and I disputed the other night is not significant (as long as we have made peace). Better to move on and forget about it.
- The same mistakes made by politicians and leaders of the world, over and over with the same predictable results – I choose to forget about it but I sure wish they did not.
- Mistakes I may have made during my life cannot be undone. If I fret over them I only bring on stress that I cannot appease as I cannot change the past. Forget about it.
- The price of gas not so long ago – I have no choice but to forget about it as I wipe a tear from my eye.
- The feelings of loss and pain that have been scattered through the years. If we are unable to forget to some extent or at least soften around the edges our painful memories, they remain ever-fresh and vivid, a part of each day. Unable to put them behind us we cannot move on to the acceptance stage that is necessary for our mental health. If only we could forget
Losing our keys or forgetting the name of a song are trifles that though annoying do not often endanger our lives.
Some things we are sad to forget but unfortunately have no control over what happens to our memory.
Some things we are better off forgetting.
When we have no choice in the matter and we become upset, when we feel like we are literally “losing it”, I recommend heeding the words of a wise gangster from the movies who so sagely said, “forget about it…”.
Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to email@example.com.