Long-term loss of short-term memory

Speaking out — By Dr. Maria Sexton

Published on July 8, 2014

“I should put this somewhere safe” I say to myself. Those six words should set off alarm bells in my head but I usually forget about my previous experiences with putting stuff in a safe place.

The only safe thing about this is that it is now safe from me finding it. If I should ever stumble upon any of these so called safe places I will find an amazing number of things that I hid on myself and even things I forgot I had hidden on myself.  If this memory of mine gets any worse I really will be hiding my own Easter Eggs. I could even try a game of Hide and Seek.

A friend recently sent me a pie chart of how much time is spent on various activities throughout the day. There were pie slices of varying sizes for work, eating, sleeping, but the biggest slice of all was for “ looking for things I just had in my hands”. Obviously I am not alone in my spending an inordinate amount of time everyday looking for stuff. I resent this loss of my time and hate that it seems to be on the increase. I’m sure it must be hours that I spend daily looking for something. Spending time like this is currency I can’t afford.

Time is moving so fast anyway, I don’t want to be losing any trying to put my hands on something, especially something I just had in them!

I misplaced my bowl of cereal this morning.  How does one lose a bowl of cereal on the way to the table? I remembered laying down the bowl when I answered the phone.

Whenever I answer the cordless phone I can’t stay still.  I walk around doing things while talking. I had started emptying the dishwasher and continued to do so after I hung up. When finished I remembered my bowl of cereal but it was not on the table or any trajectory to the table from the counter. I had to play Sherlock. As I stood and looked around not wanting to believe I had actually lost a bowl of cereal I remembered veering off course to answer the cordless. There was my bowl tucked safely in on the buffet so it wouldn’t spill; that bloody safe place again.

I spend a lot of time looking for keys, sometimes when I actually have them in my hand.

Transferring them from hand-to-hand, I frantically search the pockets of my coat. I know my Doctor told me that it’s when you forget what the keys are for, not if you can’t find them, that you have a problem.

However I do detest how much of my day gets eaten up looking for things or just trying to remember things.

I run upstairs to get something and can’t remember what I’m there for. It’s a waste of time standing there trying to remember so I have to run back downstairs to return to the scene of the thought.

The only consolation is that pretty much everyone you talk to is in the same boat on Memory Loss Bay.

Conversations with friends and family depend so much on the communal memory. Conversations can go something like this. “I was over in, oh you know the place and ran into whatshisname. You know the guy who has the whatchamacallit”. This really isn’t that far off from my reality with everyone trying to help fill in the blanks.

I seem to be able to relay the gist of things but the details are getting sketchier and sketchier. The tip of my tongue is sore from trying to nip off names and places that dance around on its edge.

 Sometimes I think I’m abusing my memory expecting so much from it. It’s already overflowing with well over 50 years of stored stuff. Then top that with my busy life.  

Research shows multitasking can be distracting, hinder focus and keep us from finishing what we start. It is better to start, do and finish tasks one at a time. Unfortunately for me one task can lead to the necessity of another task being done before the first task can be completed. Sometimes this can cascade into many jobs before you get a chance to finish the first, that’s if you can remember what that job was in the first place. This is especially prevalent with chores around the house.

I’m trying hard to keep on track and be more organized. I’m making lists and trying to remember to check them. I try to put my keys in the dish by the door and the same place in my purse.

Then sometimes I’m distracted and God knows where I put them because I sure don’t have a clue. But at least I comfort myself that I still know what they’re for which is why I’m trying to find them. Too bad you never get back the time spent searching.

Dr. Marina Sexton lives in Norris Point and is a member of The Western Star's Community Editorial Board.