When cognitive decline shrinks your world to the size of a snow globe, finding wisdom is like trying to reach through glass. Memory adds to your quality of life in a million ways. Forgotten deadlines, dates, and appointments are easily fixed. All you need is a post-it note for that. Life lessons and relationship history are the tough ones. Did J visit this week or last year? Have I been abandoning B? Is N definitely moving here in October? If I ask, will she think I don’t care? Of course, she will. Better not to ask. Is F trustworthy? I’m sure he did something to change my opinion of him, but what?
Memory failings have turned my own life into a secret from myself, and my relationships into mysteries. It’s easy to get used to the practical glitches. It’s the lost lessons I feel the most.
It isn’t much good for your dignity either. Most of the time, I feel like a bungling fool, and I wonder if others can see the flailings of my mind. Do they get tired of reminding me of my life? Do they take my forgetfulness personally? Do I make them feel unwanted because I forget about the graduations, the ex’ names, the important interviews?
I’ve grown used to using tools to make up for my mind’s idiocy. I cannot live without Google, but this has become normal for me, so it no longer frustrates me. Search engines can’t be carried into your next visit, though, and it’s the godawful pretence of my life that wears down my patience, primarily because I’m never sure I pull it off well enough.
I’m an expert at hiding the things I overlook. I know how to drag a name out of you without asking for it, and I’m a professional at using disqualifiers to end the stories I forget halfway through: “Anyway, it doesn’t matter. This conversation is boring. Let’s have lunch.”
There are a few benefits to this beyond being able to watch movies over and over without knowing the plot—and for a story fan as enthusiastic as myself, that’s hardly a small plus. I learn a lot about my people—I know that J will remind me of something a thousand times without treating me like an idiot. I know that E can happily wait out my long silences while I try to pick up a lost thought. I know that H judges me, but P will join me in a Google search for my forgotten word. In other words, I know who can see who I am without filtering it through what I cannot do. I have a ton of love for the patient ones.
I’ve learned a lot about what I can do, too. I know that I’m exceptionally good at finding hope. I have little to offer beyond that, so that is what I share. Cognitive failings have a way of taking me out of my head, my constant navel-gazing notwithstanding. They also keep me aware of the present. Yesterday is not even a memory, and tomorrow will disappear in a flash. I do have today, and I always will.