I almost forgot to write this month’s blog.
I share this not in the spirit of full disclosure, or as a sort of “dog ate my blog” excuse, but because I’ve noticed recently that I have become increasingly more forgetful. And, it’s troubling.
Now, before anyone who knows me well points out that my memory has always been slightly suspect, let me go on record as saying that yes, I know. I’ve always been … absent-minded. Important things, unless they’re written down, tend to get lost whereas obscure details of little to no import, are lodged in my brain and pop up at random times. For example, did you know that:
1.) The average pulse for elephants is 27 beats per minute.
2.) The definition of the word “insegrevious” is that it can mean anything you want it to mean.
3.) Barton County, Kansas, is the only Kansas county named after a woman (Clara Barton of Civil War fame).
Interesting factoids to be sure, but not super helpful in any regard aside from a Trivial Pursuit cage fight – and realistically, how often does that happen? (I, myself, have only been in three TPCFs in my lifetime.)
I share these as examples of what I CAN remember while acknowledging that a great deal of the really important stuff is a little, well, shall we say … vague. For instance, I have one friend whose Texas hometown I consistently get wrong. She is incredibly kind and it has become a running joke in which I always suggest she’s from some obscure town like Hereford (yes, it’s a place), but fact of the matter is, for most of our early conversations, I was convinced she was from Houston. Which she’s not – at least, I don’t think, anyway.
But I digress.
Over the last few years, I have become more and more forgetful. Is it age? Is it a failing of my mental faculties? I’m not sure – which is why I have taken it upon myself to do some research. And what do you know, I found three (yes, three!) possible explanations that I believe are applicable to my situation:
1.) A genetic predisposition: Though I was never diagnosed with ADD (or any of the other acronyms that at this moment seem to have slipped my mind), I’ve always been distracted by shiny things and have had a hard time concentrating on just one thing. It’s something with which my mother and sister both struggle as well. It’s likely that my maternal grandmother did, too. We all seem to think differently so, maybe that’s just how I’m wired. (As an aside (distraction) I’ve been binge-watching the sixth season of The Good Wife while at the gym and actually stopped working out to re-watch portions of the episode “Shiny Objects” and the thought process of my favorite character, Elsbeth Tascioni. It was a shock to see my brain on television – or at least a reflection of how my brain works. And it was heartening. ) I’m not sure it’s relevant, but you might want to check the scene out on YouTube.
2.) Technology: Numerous studies have been done that suggest that our constant use of our electronic devices and the incessant distraction of social media have changed the organization and chemistry of our brains. It’s a common topic on NRP’s Science Friday. This is just one example: http://www.npr.org/2013/10/18/237100760/logging-in-to-the-brains-social-network. The argument has been made as well that all the technology that allows us to store information (telephone numbers, metric conversions, missile launch codes), has made it unnecessary for us to remember all of these things. Add to this the ability to “Google” any random fact whenever you have an internet connection and … well, you see where I’m going with this. If we don’t need to remember, we don’t.
3.) Fallible Design: Human brains have design flaws that make them … well … unreliable. Check out this episode of Radio Lab: http://www.radiolab.org/story/91569-memory-and-forgetting/ that examines what memory is, how it works, and why it’s fallible. According to studies noted in the story, what happens when we recall a memory is that we’re not recalling the event itself, but a memory of our last recollection of it. It’s kind of like the game “Gossip” in which, as the story is passed from person to person, it becomes distorted. And, these flaws become more pronounced as we age. Look at all the “brain games” that are designed to help us keep our mental faculties sharp. Just recently, Patricia Marx released her book, Let’s Be Less Stupid: An Attempt to Maintain My Mental Faculties, in which she documents her journey to keep her brain healthy and sharp. I won’t tell you her conclusions but it’s an interesting read.
And all of this brings me to the original point of this blog, that being that my memory isn’t quite what it used to be. And I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad. Along with not remembering the good, I also have hazy memories of the bad. I’m quick to forgive because I’ve forgotten. And I think that’s all right. What I CAN tell you though, that even though I might not be able to remember a hometown or where I put my car keys, I am always available as a Trivial Pursuit partner — cage fight or otherwise. Just remember you’ll probably have to remind me to show up.