Okay, I put my keys down right here. I know I did. Then I went in the kitchen to get my coffee cup. Now I can't find them. Where did they go? I need my glasses. Where are my glasses. I won't be able to see the keys unless I find my glasses. So, they were over there on the shelf when I answered the phone.
Remembering is a topic of more frequent conversation among my peers (Baby Boomers) who anticipate their golden years more anxiously now than they ever did before. In the past, retirement hardly seemed relevant, and those of us who were in good health felt ourselves warmed by an eternal flame of vibrant youth. The joke was that aging was only something that happened to wine, cheese and our parents. Most of them got more mellow with age, but some got stinky and difficult to tolerate. I am happy to say my own parents are ones who have mellowed and who are still fine examples of their generation.
Let's see, I forgot where I was going with this. Oh yeah. Memory. By now, enough scientific studies have proven that memories are able to stick around longer if they are associated with emotion, pain or adrenaline. If a car nearly runs you down as you step out into a busy street, it's safe to say that that particular memory and its associated lesson for survival will be vivid in your mind's eye for, oh, the rest of your life.
When you write a grocery list of ordinary things and set it down while you look for your keys, no emotion or adrenaline is attached, so the memory fades about as quickly as your breath on a mirror. If you write a grocery list while you feel stressed about whether you can get back in time to cook the chicken before the family comes home, that mild stress will help you remember things better; you probably won't even need to write it down.
On the other hand, if you are trying to remember tiny details and you are near panic, the blankety-blank shopping list will be impossible to deal with as your nervous system will be primed to fight or flee. One way or another, you've noticed by now that some things are clear and other things are very difficult to recall. Science is working on this whole realm of brain neurology feverishly these days, but there still remain many questions about how our memory works and how to improve it.
The blank in memory about ordinary details such as what actor played the main role in that movie that won the Academy Awards in 1966 is not cause for dismay as far as I'm concerned. More important to me is a consistency of character, living in alignment with one's beliefs and values. I might forget a few things, but I am going to act in a way that is congruent with honesty, loyalty, honor and a few others I can't remember at the moment (just kidding). Except for those of us stricken with Alzheimer's disease, good character and being aligned with one's values will perhaps be the more important focus for me and my peers.
No matter what age I am at the moment, living honorably and with love more prevalent in my life than fear, I'll be well served; it's how I intend to live. As long as I remember to keep my values, I'll probably be okay.
Hey! I found my keys. They were right here the whole time.
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way