I used to have a great memory. I used to be able to bring up exactly the right word when I was talking. Heck, I used to be able to recite the entire plot and character arcs for every book I'd ever read. And that's saying something. And it wasn't so long ago either.
There was a time when I could juggle fifty different details. I was On Top Of Things. I was the go-to person for tracking a dozen threads and never got a one tangled. I was good. I'm still good, for that matter; I just have to write every blessed thing down now. No more storing them up in my thingie. And yes, proper nouns were the first to go.
I used to think it was funny, the things that my parents couldn't remember. Like how old they were. Geez, how could you forget something like that? These days I'm doing the math, just like my dad used to do. Good thing it doesn't require long division or I'd never know. Bits of conversation are temporarily misplaced, too. A friend will say "didn't I tell you?" And I'll say "no, I don't think so." But then a week later the entire former conversation will pop up to the front of my brain. The odd thing about that is that it will come out entirely out of context with whatever I'm focused on at the time.
No, it's not dementia or Alzheimer's or any of those other dreaded things that we all fear. A lot of it has to do with time and energy. I don't seem to have as much of either as I used to, and probably my brain is getting sloppy as a result and isn't sorting and filing information as diligently as it used to. The other thing is that I'm older and there are simply more memories for my brain to store than there used to be. I was thinking about that just this past weekend as I was cleaning out a closet. There was so much junk that had migrated to the back of the closet floor, stuff that's totally useless and why wasn't it thrown out in the first place? Old empty hangers that had worked their way to the far left end of the rod, one garment at a time. Empty boxes. A mateless winter glove. A leg warmer - just one. Where the heck did that come from?
The closet got that way because of my own bad habits. I've got clutter issues. I'm always sure that I'm going to find a use for this whateveritis that is still perfectly good. Like one leg warmer? Probably I threw the other one away already thinking, like Romeo, that its mate was already gone when all along she was just sleeping in the back corner of the closet.
So what does all of this have to do with my memory issues? The back of my mind, like my closet, has become the repository for all sorts of things that have long outlived their usefullness. It's interesting the way it works. I find one lost leg warmer in the back of my closet and I wonder what the heck I was thinking. But if I pull out a phone number from childhood, I marvel that I still hold onto it. And what really is the difference? The difference is that I can clear out all that clutter from my closet; what's in my brain will stay there, only surfacing when, as with that lost bit of conversation, I'm looking for something else entirely.
Maybe the trick is to get my real space more organized. Maybe then my brain space will relax and follow along. I'll be able to pull what I want to the surface more readily. First I need to find the time and the energy. And a really big trash bag.