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12/09/2011 / melgardener

Who am I and how did I get here?

Too often lately, I’ve found myself standing in a daze with no idea where I am or why I’m there. And I don’t mean existentially – I mean physically. Today, I stood in front of my open pantry with absolutely no clue as to why I was there or what I was looking for. It took me a good few minutes to backtrack my steps and my thought processes to remember why I’d gone to the pantry in the first place.

It’s easy to pass off this forgetfulness as “I’m getting old” with a nervous laugh or to make a joke of early onset dementia but I suspect in this busy day and age that there are many of us experiencing this type of information or sensory overload.

I tend to live my life on fast-forward. I multi-task everything in my life – I can’t remember the last time I concentrated on one, single task from inception to completion. On any given day I might have a load of washing in the machine, dinner on the stove, homework under supervision (don’t get me started on that again), email open on my laptop and be conducting a phone call on my mobile. Heaven help the children if they need to ask me something!

I drove home yesterday morning on complete auto-pilot. I have no memory of the car trip, only that we suddenly arrived home and I had no comprehension of how I’d navigated my way through the traffic. Of course, I know that my peripheral senses would have been working on my behalf, allowing my conscious brain to be making to-do lists and process all the other information I contend with in a normal day. But it really scared me that I wasn’t engaged with the driving process – I think I was very lucky that we didn’t have an accident.

I also recognise that I’m worse with this when I’m tired – and when I’m physically as well as emotionally drained. I suspect this issue of ‘forgetfulness’ isn’t that my brain doesn’t remember, it’s more that it’s moved on in the milliseconds it takes me to decide I need to get something from the pantry and put my feet in motion. It may only take me 15 seconds to reach the pantry but, in that time, my brain has effectively ‘filed’ my need from the pantry as already having been taken care of and moved onto the next task.

Which is why I regularly turn up in a room, then have to back out to remember why I’m there. Or set off to the other end of the house with one task in mind then get distracted along the way as I notice the myriad other tasks that also need doing. It’s frustrating in some ways because I feel
I waste time having to backtrack but, in other ways, I find it another fascinating look at how our brains work and what makes them tick.

Do you suffer this type of forgetfulness? Is it frustrating or fascinating to you?

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