Stress always has had a particularly challenging effect on me. I become forgetful. More forgetful than I am normally, and that is fairly dodgy on a good day. And here is the trickiest part of all; as I age, it gets even more complicated. As in, did I forget because I am overly stressed, or did I forget because my brain is going south on me? Questions only time will answer.
The hopeful side of brain do not fail me now, is I was displaying this behavior in my early twenties. I recall being so concerned, I once asked my doctor about it, hoping he could offer me a remember better pill. I described how forgetful I had become, so much so I could be looking for something I had misplaced, and would forget what I was looking for during the search.
After a lengthy conversation, his conclusion was I had too much stress in my life with everything I was trying to manage; fatigue mixed with constant focus on the demands of work, and a brand new marriage were taking their toll. My doctor did not have a magic pill. No, he had advice. Either get a hobby, or have a baby. Really.
His preferred hobby was batiking, because that was what his wife did, and she was very happy. Even if I did choose a hobby, he recommended having a baby. He felt it would fulfill me. Really. After that visit, I decided looking for my car keys, and finding them in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator was not nearly as alarming as the suggestion I complicate my life further with either of his options.
Over the years I have found there is an equation in the forgetfulness. It is in direct proportion to the level of stress I am experiencing. There have been times when I have had smaller issues come along that required focus, and often those instances resulted in slip ups, but always with a benign result. Not exactly forgetting, more of a distractedness.
There was a day I went to work, and as I was getting ready that morning my thoughts were turned to a health issue I knew was going to be fine, but still was going to be uncomfortable to resolve. I arrived at work, settled in, and was preparing to head downstairs for a long day of interviewing customers who had questions or problems with their Food Stamps or Medicaid. As I stood up from my desk, I glanced down to see I was wearing the shoes I liked best, my leather clogs. Unfortunately, when I had put them on as I left for work, I was too preoccupied to notice one of my clogs was smooth brown leather, while the other was brown suede.
Horrified, I went into my supervisor’s office, and showed her my feet. I asked if I could go home and change my shoes. She studied my feet for a bit, and then sincerely explained she did not think there was a problem, and felt with the demands looming over us to meet the projected needs of the day, I should stay, and just go get started with the interviewing. She said no one would notice, anyway. I looked at her, hopefully; and she burst out laughing, telling me again she was sure no one would notice, but I might want to keep my feet under my desk when at all possible.
The other end of the spectrum can best be summed up by my son’s traumatic experience when he was in third grade. We had been living in Alaska, and were preparing to move back to the lower 48. All of our moves were left to me to facilitate, and it never got any easier. This particular one was more challenging because it was going to be an overseas move, which complicated everything.
I worked morning to night each day, kept detailed lists, and faithfully adhered to the schedule for task completion, which was necessary to get it all done on time, so our household belongings could be loaded onto a barge, and shipped south. While this was being completed, the daily needs of a family still had to be met.
It was during our final week in Alaska that I had to make what would be a last run to the grocery store. We lived in the Mendenhall Valley, and had to drive into town for our groceries. It was late afternoon as I zoomed in to the store, shopped on autopilot, all the while mentally going over my lists as I tossed food into the cart, paid for everything, and drove back home, hoping for a peaceful, quiet evening after another long day’s work.
I pulled into the driveway, and as I put the car into park, I looked up to see my daughter in the window of our second floor living room pointing down at the car, and frantically mouthing something to me, which I did not understand. She finally opened the window as I opened the car door, and she shouted, “Where is my brother?” I looked at her, puzzled over the question, and replied I did not know. I asked her if she knew where he had gone. I will never forget her words, “Yes, Mom, he went to the store with you!”
And there it was. My eight year old boy had indeed accompanied me to the grocery store, and I had left him in the video game room the store so graciously supplied for the entertainment of kids whose parents wanted a few minutes to buy food, alone. And after my distracted shopping, that is exactly where he still was when I drove home.
I jumped back into my car, and drove as fast as I could manage back to the grocery store. When I dashed inside, he was standing outside the game room, looking as forlorn as any child could possibly look. He walked up to me and said, “That wasn’t funny, Mom.” I do not remember what I did to make amends, but I know he pretty much had anything he wanted for some time after that. Seriously, when you go off and leave your child somewhere, you forfeit your Mother of the Year title for a very long time.
So, here I am in a very stressful season, and I find that old forgetfulness happening again. So far I have not misplaced or left anyone behind, but I have promised to take someone a Christmas cactus three times, and it still sits in the kitchen, waiting. I have forgotten to put bags of garbage out for the kind gentleman who stops by and carries it down to the dumpster for me. And I did leave two sixteen inch braids of my hair, that I had cut off two days ago, in the car. I kept meaning to bring them up to package and send to Locks of Love, but as soon as I got home I would forget, and they stayed there until today. I did wonder what the reaction would be if someone had broken into my car to see what was in the fancy bag on the passenger seat, and found hair. Not exactly what you were looking for now, was it?
These seasons come and go. And I choose to take comfort in the company I keep while waiting, because it means I am not alone; and sometimes we just need to know someone else has been there, and in the end, it will be all right.
But my thoughts ran a wool-gathering; and I did like the countryman, who looked for his ass while he was mounted on its back.–Miguel de Cervantes