How Not to Forget

Up until about the age of 6, I never went anywhere without my beloved, bedraggled stuffed teddy bear; my stand-in for a security blanket. It didn't matter that its once-white coat had turned a pallid shade of gray, nor that its once-robust, shapely body became a sagging hint of what once was. I still clung fiercely.

Sometimes I feel like that old teddy bear; my skin no longer glowing nor my body as shapely as it once was. But I cling fiercely to the fact that despite inevitable signs of aging, I can be proactive in fighting against them.

Yes. Skin, hair, body, and more. Those are the things for which creams, deep conditioning treatments and exercise are made for. But what can be done about our memory? You know, that thing that you rely on like a good, faithful friend, but the same one that sometimes turns viciously on you?

Memory is a funny thing. There are many things we'd like to forget -- like bad haircuts, lousy meals and upsetting fights with loved ones. And then, there are those things we would love to remember -- such as where we parked the car, the name of that restaurant we want to recommend to our friends and a word that we've used a hundred times before but is now stubbornly stuck on the tip of our tongues.

Did I forget to do something because I'm overloaded... trying to multitask... I ran out of time? Or did I forget because my memory is not what it once was?

Chances are it's a combination of both.

What happens with me is this: Things build and build and finally I get too frustrated and upset for my own good. And then I do something that will once and for all help me remember everything.

Last month, it was upping my exercise (research shows that it helps with age-related cognitive decline). But then an old shoulder injury re-emerged and I realized that I had one more thing to remember (and that was to ice it and lay off the heavy weights for a while). Forget that idea.

The month before that, it was trying to get more sleep by waking up naturally without an alarm clock (lack of sleep can impair your ability to focus and learn efficiently; it also consolidates and cements memories so that they can be recalled in the future). But that backfired when, the night before, I forgot to cancel my early-morning appointment with my dentist and got charged for it.

So, this month, I'm trying something new. I have a new teddy bear. Well, not exactly a teddy bear...but my version of a teddy bear/security blanket.

I've been carrying around a steno pad. Remember steno? (If you don't, you're too young to be reading my this. But keep reading -- you might learn something from an "older" person's experience). While no one uses those pads for actual stenography any longer, they're still sold.

I've divided mine into three sections. One is "Calls/To Do," where I list things like "Call doctor for results of bone density test," and "Buy Mom a birthday gift." Last year, I forgot (naturally) and her gift, which should have been bought for her November birthday, didn't surface until the following March.

The second section: "Errands" like, "Buy Mom a birthday gift" (hey, repetition helps cement memories) and "Return book" (I bought a duplicate "Word for Dummies" because I forgot that I already owned one). But all bets are off if I set out to do my errands and forget to take my steno pad along.

And the last one is simply titled "Work" (I know... that one should come first, but lately life has a way of getting in the way of work), where I list things like, "Write blog post!!!" (as if I could forget? It's on my mind day and night) and "Pitch new story idea to X magazine" (which doesn't work unless I actually specify which idea I'm intending to pitch, since there are usually a dozen or so that I have but strangely cannot recall one when I try to).

So, for now, I'm sticking with my steno pad. It works - most of the time. Although, it's only mid-month and by the time the 30th gets here (or is it 31 days? How does that saying go again? 30 Days Hath September...and then what the hell happens?) I might be on to something else.


If you want to read the secrets from someone who actually won the title of Memory Champion, here's an interview I did with him for my other blog, MidlifeMatters, on the website HealthyWomen.Org.