I finally solved one of life’s little mysteries last Saturday, while loitering in the middle of our kitchen. “What are you doing?” Vigi asked quietly, as I stood there sort of swaying like a new calf or an old dog. “I came in here for something, but I’ll be damned if I can remember what the heck it was!” replied a voice that sounded incredibly like mine. If there is even a smidgen of gray in your hair, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You send yourself on a mission. It’s not like going to, say, Shanghai or something. Often it’s just an excursion into the next room … but once you get there, the rest of the directive is obscured by something I call “Brain Fog.” It’s from the Latin, brainus foggus, which loosely translated means “Wait, I knew that a minute ago.”
For the longest time I’ve been puzzled by why it takes me longer to do things now than it used to. There are still sixty seconds in a minute, right? Suddenly, Saturday afternoon, lights flashed and trumpets blared! It was so simple. When I was a kid, I just did stuff. When I was finished, I kept going and did more stuff. There were no limits! Now, I spend half my time trying to figure out where I put something or what I’m doing somewhere … then spend the other half working at a speed approaching molasses on Prozac, instead of my former legendary warp factor nine. Think of it in terms of throwing a fastball over the plate: When you’re younger you just rifle it in to a catcher. Now you toss, toddle sixty feet six inches, change gloves and catch your own pitch, on one bounce!
The good news is that such episodes are temporary, and a quick retrace of my steps usually causes the tumblers in my head to click into place. Failing that, sometimes just sitting down hard can jog the missing debris down to my primary thought center. The bad news is that it all chews up valuable time in a changing world where minutes seem to perceptibly have fewer and fewer seconds!
By the way, the first cousin of “Brain Fog” is “Mind Vapor” … from the Latin, vaporus mentalus, which is the complete disappearance of a thought or idea in mid-sentence. You don’t have to travel at all to trigger this one. I’ve discovered that retracing words in a conversation can be even tougher than retracing steps into a room … especially once I realized no one was actually listening, including me! Like my mission directive the missing piece is usually retrieved, although sometimes not right away. Veege is frequently puzzled when I pipe up with something like, “Hey, remember when I was telling you about … (fill in topic) ?” Of course, not only doesn’t she remember the conversation but she can’t figure how I don’t know where I put my glasses five minutes ago, yet I can suddenly remember exquisite detail from an incomplete conversation last Tuesday!
If these tendencies toward fog and vaporization continue, it shouldn’t be long before I can start thinning out my extensive DVD collection. In a few short years, we’ll only need to keep a couple of discs around … watch a movie and it’s brand new again by tomorrow!
Most young people can’t really apply these little inconveniences to themselves. After all, it’s not their own reflections they see in the fun house mirror. Not yet. The first gray hair or squint line may herald some reality for newly christened middle-agers, but the idea of operating at less than light speed is beyond imagination. At thirty or forty, when the world is at your feet and you’re ninety mile-an-hour fastball is still popping the catcher’s glove, it’s impossible to picture a time when just finding the plate may occupy a significant portion of the day. That’s something that only happens to … old people.
The next time I run into some multi-tasking lightening rod who acts like he has all the answers or thinks older folks are kind of funny, my tolerance will be increased a hundred fold … because not only am I the one who understands most of the questions, but I know who’s going to have the last laugh! I hope I can remember that.
Listen to Bananas Crackers and Nuts Podcast. Find Links under “Recent Podcasts”… and more shows on my Podcast Page.