November disappeared at midnight, slipping out the back door. No snow here yet, but the trees are mostly bare now, except for the oaks that hang onto their shriveled brown leaves well into winter. Temperatures have dropped, and I have to propel myself out of the house for my afternoon walk, bundled in my long down coat and warmest hat. Even wearing insulated gloves, my fingertips burn from the cold.
But walk I must, or I get far too stiff working at my computer much of the day. The fresh air clears my head and the exercise gets my heart pumping and blood circulating. It also helps me to remember what I need to do next.
All of my friends in their sixties joke and commiserate about our less-than-sharp memories. There are the words that won’t come when beckoned, the names that elude recall, the purposeful trips to one room or another—punctuated by the inability to remember why it was necessary to go there in the first place.
It’s reassuring to know I’m not alone in this, but I find it disconcerting, nonetheless. All too often, I’ve been misplacing things—my cell phone, or keys, or a book that I was sure I had in one room that seems to have walked to another all by itself. I’ve left the house, certain that I had everything I needed for the day, only to realize when I’m too far from home that I forgot something. I should use a pill minder to be sure I’ve taken all my meds on schedule, even as I hate to admit I need it.
I don’t know if this is simply due to the natural aging process or the fact that I need more sleep or some combination thereof. Hormonal changes since menopause certainly muddied the waters. I feel like my memory gets worse when the days grow short and it gets too dark, too early—it’s time to hibernate, and I just can’t hold as much information in my head.
I keep a detailed journal, files of correspondence and spread sheets to track my work for my clients. I’d be lost without those records. I maintain similar files for family business and long to-do lists. I have a notebook that I carry with me to all my doctor’s appointments, or I’d never remember our conversations. But I used to be able to manage all the day’s details without writing everything down. No longer.
I also can’t remember all the details of family history the way I once could. I used to have vivid memories of my childhood and our early years with our own children. Now, my younger daughter will mention an event that’s as clear as day to her, but I have to dig deep to picture it. Very frustrating.
I suppose that as the layers of memories accumulate over decades, there’s just that much more to sift through. But I want to be able to remember everything the way I used to. Ironic that I can remember how I used to remember. It’s just the what that’s acquired a mind of its own. I keep wondering if this is just a temporary state of affairs, or if I’ve reached some kind of tipping point that requires acceptance of the inevitable: the older I get, everything just takes longer, including memory recall. At least I have all my journals—a trunkful—to fall back on. And all of my other writing.
As for the immediate challenge of memory lapses, it’s time to develop some new strategies. I’m sure there are plenty of apps to help, although keeping a small notepad with me at all times is probably the best, most obvious, low-tech solution. As long as I can remember where I put my pen.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.
Image Credit: fabrizio turco