I missed a meeting. There, I said it. And not only did I miss the meeting by putting it on my calendar on the wrong day, but several weeks earlier, I had gotten an e-mail about that same meeting and misread the date then. Makes you wonder. Wonder what? Ten years ago I would have wondered why I subconsciously didn’t want to attend the meeting; nowadays, I wonder if I am losing it.
No, that is not quite it. What I wonder is if other people wonder if I am losing it. (The people whose meeting I missed, for example, or my friend whom I mention it to, who goes, “Hmmmmm” and raises her eyebrows). I know I’m okay. I know that I still carry things — appointments, future plans, whole pages I will one day write — in my head all the time.
But the occurrence brings to mind the common worry most of us who are in our third third of life have: are we getting forgetful? Is a missed appointment just a missed appointment, or is it the beginning of the end? A sign?
Someone goes to a party on the wrong day. Uh oh.
Someone goes to the doctor’s appointment on the right day but the wrong time.
Someone forgets she promised to call before three.
Someone has gotten into the habit of saying, “Did I know this? Did you tell me this?” after every tidbit of gossip.
Someone leaves the keys in the ignition and locks herself out of the car.
Someone leaves the oven on.
Someone leaves the oven on? Isn’t this an official “warning sign”?
If it happens once, and you are young you don’t immediately suspect a failing memory. You figure It is a bad day, and you move on. But when you are older, you can’t quite let it go. Are people looking askance? Or is it you, looking askance at yourself?
And by the way, if you remember that I wrote about forgetfulness in this blog before, don’t judge me. I didn’t forget; I’m thinking about it in another way. I think this kind of second guessing takes a toll on your confidence. Being afraid you are going to forget can make you forget. Being afraid you are going crazy can make you crazy. You lose sleep worrying that you won’t wake up in time, or you’ll sail right past the right day, as I did, at the beginning of this blog.
So you double up on the calendars. You put a small one in your purse, and hang big ones all over the house. Maybe you try winding ribbons around your wrist to help you remember things, or make big signs, or program your computer to remind you when bills are due or someone’s birthday is coming up, or your plane leaves for France. (I have a friend who once missed a transatlantic flight.)
But because you forget to duplicate the same date on all the calendars, you invariably check the wrong one to determine what you’ve got on for that day, and end up starting a good book and missing your doctor’s appointment after all. Or, you remember the ribbon on your wrist but not why you put it there, and the big sign which you had put up on the door of the office with scotch tape had lost its adhesive and slipped down and slid under the door until months after the event you were reminding yourself about was over, and now you cannot remember whether you remembered to go or not. You think you did.
And if you are young, none of this means you are losing it, it simply means you are forgetful. When you can’t retain a name, it is because you are “bad at names.” If you are a woman, people may call you “ditsy.” If you are a man, they say you are too busy, or “in another world.”
But when you are an older person, you and the rest of us worry about you losing it.
Most of the time, that’s not the case. When you do things you have been doing all your life, there is no cause for alarm. When you do something once or twice, it is not a pattern and it is not a sign. It just is.
And when you become really forgetful, well, maybe you won’t remember that you are. Won’t that be nice?