Monday, June 25, 2007

The vagaries of memory

Memory intrigues me. There's so much about the brain that we have no idea about--who knows what we'll laugh at fifty years from now with scientific breakthroughs? The myth that we use only 10% of our brain seems to come partly from the fact that we don't use all of our brain at once. However, not being a scientist, I still do not understand why I can remember song lyrics, obscure actors' names and their movie roles, birthdays of grammar school classmates, and seeing my newborn sister when I was only 3 1/2 years old, but I cannot remember where I put my glasses/purse, what my husband asked me to pick up at the grocery store, monthly bill payments, or when I have a meeting or appointment.

As a wise person recently put it, for whatever reason it seems that spoken requests go in one chamber of my memory but never make it to the next one. Or I'll try to write something down but I'll write it on some scrap of paper that I then lose. Or I have some planner that I lose or forget to use and it's a month later and I find it and think, "Oh yeah, this, I should use this." I've gotten much better about it--step one is recognizing how my particular process works. If there's a school meeting, I put it in my Outlook calendar with an e-mail reminder AND I put it in my planner--which also has a To-Do list on the other side. Thank goodness again for Real Simple! This way I can keep everything together. I'm also learning to simply say, "Yes, I can do that, but would you please e-mail me/call me tomorrow about it?" This way I cover my bases. Plus, feathernester in her speech pathology wisdom has advised that I update and look at my to-do list every day for six weeks. According to her and many experts, this is the magic number for making something a habit. I will ask DH to help me remember and give myself little rewards each week for remembering. Today is Day 1, so wish me luck.

I think the biggest problem is that when I forget these important tasks, I and everyone else looks at it as a major character flaw rather than my hardwiring acting differently than others'. I don't use that as an excuse, though I have used some variation of it as one in the past. However, my inability to remember these things unless I write them down or repeat them out loud several times (and sometimes that doesn't even work) is viewed as me acting irresponsibly or immaturely--apparently once you reach a certain age, your brain should switch into Responsible Adult Mode. This includes rarely missing appointments, paying bills on time, not throwing tantrums, working when you'd rather play, and watching or reading the news. Raise your hand if you've ever seen adults NOT doing these things, yourself included. I thought so. I feel grateful that the aforementioned wise person helped me figure out that my memory snafus are not part of a character flaw; they're just part of me. I'll continue to believe this even when others around me do not.

Do any of you have this problem or know those who do? Perhaps you're married to or dating or working with this person? What are your solutions?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I keep waiting for Responsible Adult Mode to kick in. Then maybe I would take my vitamins, eat fish sticks for dinner less often and do my own taxes instead of sending them to my dad! I guess it just doesn't "kick in", I guess we have to make it kick in. Wow, that's so much harder. ~Alice