Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Memory and Brain Farts


Have you ever run into someone who seems to have a luminous aura, like they know stuff the rest of us don’t? If a person is pairing their I’m-at-peace-and-you’re-not look with a Mona Lisa smile they don’t even have to talk. I’d like to develop that quality…not because I know stuff that others don’t---no way is that true---but I’d like to develop that look to cover up the fact that my language skills are waning. It’s alarming when I open up my mouth and the wrong words come rolling out. For example, I was sitting in the doctor’s office this week and four or five times I spoke using the wrong-but-similar words, like someone who needs hearing aids will hear ‘feet’ instead of ‘street’ or ‘cat’ instead of ‘fat.’ I corrected myself on the spot and hopefully I caught all of my brain farts but the more often things like that happen the more timid I get about talking in public. I figured I wasn’t having a TIA or the doctor and his wanna-be doctor-in-tow would have said, “Hey, lady, we need to get you to the ER. STAT!” At one point I made a joke about my tongue not working right but just between you and me, I knew better. I was having bona-fided brain farts right in the middle of my Medicare Wellness Exam.

What’s worse than these “brain farts” or malapropisms is when someone asks me a simple question like, “What have you been doing to keep busy?” and my mind goes blank. That happened twice this past week. Once at the butterfly exhibit when my niece’s daughter-in-law---who says she has trouble making small talk---asked me that question and couldn’t come up with one single example from my busy schedule. It was such an awkward moment! I felt badly for her. I felt badly for me. She was trying to make small talk and I couldn’t hold up my end. Then again when I got my teeth cleaned yesterday, the hygienist asked me what I’ve been doing lately. She’s used to me rattling off a string of stuff but all I could come up with was a fancy lunch down at the culinary college and that took place several weeks ago. What happened to all the stuff I’ve been doing since then? Where the heck did the Memory Fairy dump those events? I'm guessing in a dark corner of my brain that won’t be accessible until someone asks me if I want gravy on my mash potatoes.

It’s not enough that we have to worry about joints that need replacing, eyelids that need lifting for better vision, moles that grow in strange places and nipples that point toward the floor we also have to worry about losing our marbles! At least I do. That cluster of brain cells that stands guard over my memories is being a cranky child, intent on embarrassing me when I least expect it. I think it would be a good idea for me to go to one of those retreats where silence is required, assuming they have mirrors available. I could work on looking luminously radiant from a spirit within and pretend I still remember me. Remember me! I do need to remember me, more specifically that I’ve never had a good memory for the places I’ve been. Case in point: Back in the ‘80s while on our way Out West my husband stopped at a restaurant that I absolutely loved---the décor, the menu, the view---and when I expressed my joy at finding such a wonderful place he said, “It wasn’t hard. You loved it the last two times we were here.” My bad memory for the places we’d been before was notorious but when you’re young quirky personality ticks like that are no big deal. But when your hair turns gray your memory ticks turn into telling lies on your Medicare Wellness questionnaire. “Nope, nani, nah, nda, nahi, no way do I forget stuff, Doc! Who told you that?”

When I turn the page on my day planner putting April in the past, my over-booked life will be behind me until October when I’ll do it to myself all over again. No more getting up at six or seven and falling asleep before my head hits the pillow at midnight. No more living by a schedule that would put the White House Director of Scheduling and Advance to shame---yes, that’s a real thing. No more waking up in the morning and before getting out of bed saying something like: If it’s Tuesday this must be Belgium. I’m hoping my brain farts are just a symptom of exhaustion, of trying to do too and not from having my gray matter cluttered up with too much junk like obscure romantic comedies featuring American tourists in Europe. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could clean out our brains like we do our computers---save this, delete that, reformat the space and send the whole kitten kaboodle off to a geek when it needs fine tuning. ©

35 comments:

  1. just found your beautiful place my friend and reading you was absolute peace to heart.
    i appreciate the way you came out of the shell of loneliness and grief and strolling for the joy and business because till we breathe we are counted among alive and to prove it right we should make our vision vast and take some purpose to make our life happy and meaningful

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    1. Thanks for stopping by my blog and for the sweet comment. Working toward making our lives happy and meaningful is universal, isn't it.

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  2. What I've always had trouble with are dates: anniversaries, birthdays, job changes, and so on. If someone asks me what year my mom or dad died, I can figure it out, but it takes associating it with particular events. The date itself doesn't stick. Even when someone asks when I started varnishing, or whatever, I have to stop and figure. But ask me where I took the photo of that blue sage that I posted three years ago, and I can give you the county road crossroads. Go figure.

    One thing I am doing is making an effort to remember things myself, rather than turning to Google. When I can't remember the name of a flower, or the county seat of Bandera County, if I give myself some time, it often will come.

    My great mystery is why I think one word and type another. At least I can catch those substitutions!

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    1. Like you with your blue sage photos, I can remember where I read something in a book---what part of a page, in what book---but I can't remember basic dates when things happened either without thinking about them. I've always been that way and my husband had the best memory of anyone I'd ever known. He was my google before Google came along.

      I would guess that you thinking one word and typing another and me thinking one word and saying another have the same root cause in our brains' word search.I doubt it's a serious sign of anything but I sure don't like when it happens.

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  3. I'm a font of useless information but I need my blog to remember all the stuff I've stored away.
    Northumbria University’s Department of Psychology has undertaken a number of studies into the effects of herbs and substances on mood and memory. They have also found that sage, ginseng, lemon balm and gingko biloba can all have positive effects on improving mental performance.

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    1. Dean, I think that's half the reason I keep blogging...to keep my memories. I joke that one day I expect my nieces to read them back to me when I can't remember who I am.

      I've never heard the thing about rosemary until I got ready to write this post (or the others you mentioned other than gingko) but I plan to study up.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Brain Farts ... I think they are caused by stress, exhaustion, and overlap/overload.

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  5. I think you figured it out when you said you were over-scheduled?
    Or to cover up--when asked, just say, "Oh, I've been so busy I can't remember!" and then laugh. The answer is easy for me, "Oh, not much." Of course, if you asked me what I had for supper last night, I'd have to think long and hard to recall--or I could lie and say, "soup". (and right now I am thinking and for the life of me, I cannot remember what I had. Did I even eat supper?)

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    1. Sounds like a good plan to me. LOL

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  6. Good morning Jean, I can so relate to the brain farts you described, Cindy asked me to go out to the freezer for something this morning, I was next door talking with the neighbor when she came out the door to remind me, now is that brain farts or sidetracked?

    I really enjoyed this post Jean, not that you have this going on but that it is so familiar to my life.

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    1. I vote that you got sidetracked. It's what men do best. LOL

      I like writing about things we can all relate to as we age so I'm glad you enjoyed this post.

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  7. I agree with Judy. Over scheduling has to be the culprit. I don't have that problem so my standard answers are "gardening" or just "not much." Seems that was all they wanted to hear anyway.

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    1. People know I'd be lying if I gave either one of your standard answers. LOL

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  8. Definitely because you are on OVERLOAD! Slow down and smell the pine needles! I need to plan a little more and you need to plan a little less!

    Growing old is NOT for sissies!

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    1. Isn't that the truth! Starting in May I'll be going into the month with only ten things on my calendar for the entire month. That's pretty slow for me.

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  9. I potted some plants this morning. When I came in, my feet were dirty. I threw one foot up into the bathroom sink and washed it off. Then I realized I'd forgotten to get a towel. H brought one, and I put that foot on the towel, and threw the other foot up and into the sink. That's when I remembered your post about your friend slipping on the throw rug while one foot was in the sink. I quickly told H to stay put because the towel could push, no, pull, no, slide. It took three tries to come up with "slide." Next time I will sit on the side of the tub and rinse my feet. More appropriate anyway.

    Do you watch Designated Survivor? A judge had to tell President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) that she had Early-onset Alzheimers. She first noticed when she couldn't remember names and dates. Holy Batman, I couldn't remember names and dates twenty years ago. :(

    Getting old is scary.

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    1. Glad you remembered my post about the sliding rug!

      I love Designated Survivor and I watch each episode twice so I don't miss any details. (On Demand the second time). That scene where she told him about the Early-onset Alzheimer's and the one after were so well acted. We're too old for Early-onset---L0L---which is more serious and faster moving that regular Alzheimer's. I can't figure out if Eric is a good guy or a bad guy. Can you?

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    2. No, I'm not sure about Eric either. I love how this show unfolds and has many layers. I think it's even better this year than last. We never miss an episode of it or Madam Secretary. Our favorite shows.

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    3. Totally agree with you on all counts. I love both shows and never miss an episode.

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    4. You meant Aaron right? The one who used to be Chief of Staff but works for the Republican Kimble Hookstraten now?

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    5. Oops, you're right. That's who I meant. Did you see him in the episode where they let his hair be curly and he spoke Russia to his cousin? I love how the director puts little clues or distractions in like that to make us wonder which side he's really on.

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    6. I thought that was who you meant. Yes, I saw that episode. I like all the attention to detail and how they sow little seeds of doubt here and there.

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  10. My favorite memory dis-order, is when I'm in the middle of a sentence and totally forget what subject I'm talking about. That's why I'm not running for President in 2020.

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    1. I've had that happen! That's the weirdest feeling but the best reason not to run for President. LOL

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  11. My schedule is non-existent nowadays so my response to the question would have been "Nothing much". Its not that I don't do anything. I get up before 7am generally, shower/dress, make breakfast, check out the news online, wander into the backyard, and so on. Well, it seems like just yesterday I was a full time housewife-cum-full time job with not a second to spare for myself.... so, along the lines of L'Oreal, "I reckon I've earned it". ~ Libby

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    1. I woke up at 7:00 this morning without an alarm and went back to sleep until just now---10:00. "I reckon I've earned it." That's my new favorite line. Thanks for that. LOL

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  12. Jean, since my stroke years and years ago, a problem that I always have is like if it's in July, I say January or March and I'll say May. I feel silly at the moment but after I laughed about it. At times I'm talking about one thing and suddenly I jump into another idea. It's because I'm Italian I guess. Ha,ha,ha.
    You know Jean, life has moments like that and we just go on and laugh because if we don't, we'll go crazy. Maybe that's my problem, I'm going crazy. LOL.
    Enjoy Sunday my good friend. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Right church, wrong pew kind of word search is so common with stroke survivors that I do worry---living alone---that I had mild stroke or TIA that no one saw. I've had a series of TIA's in my forties, before I got treated for high blood pressure. Using humor is a wonderful way to handle a lot of life's set backs.

      Have a good week, hope you get some golfing in.

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  13. I never have an answer for "what ya been up to?" either. Sometimes I truly do forget, esp. if I've been super busy when I notice events get lost when crammed together in a too full schedule. But more there is the pressure to think of something new and/or interesting to say. My days and weeks tend to hold similar activities and who wants to hear ... grandkids, yoga, tv, gardening, contacting my representatives, etc., over and over again? I end up saying something lame like, "Oh, just life stuff..." I might pick out one random thing to mention.

    BUT....I am most troubled by losing names and words. I've always been fairly articulate and "quick", but damn! I'm losing my ability to verbally spar or even remember the word I'm searching for in a normal conversation. That 'it's on the tip of my tongue' experience is so frustrating and it scares me. But I've heard it so often from others and have read it's very common, so I'm trying not to panic.

    I DO notice how often I do things unconsciously while distracted by thoughts or other activities and my mindfulness practice helps me pay attention and be more in the moment, which also cements memories more firmly. And lists. I keep lists. :)

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    1. I think what happens with me sometimes is when asked what I've been doing I mentally go through my file of what I've been doing looking for something I think the asker would be interested in hearing about. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.LOL

      Losing the ability to be "fairly articulate" and "quick" is darn right scary, isn't it. I do think it's common but that's not very comforting.

      You gave me a good idea. From now when I'm asked what I've been doing I'm going to say I'm practicing living in the moment and the past doesn't matter. LOL

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    2. Welcome to my world:) I put birthdays, and almost everything else in the calendar of my phone to remind me and I still forget. That's part of it.
      R

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    3. I've tried that but the default reminder is 15 minutes ahead of events and I keep forgetting to change that so I have some lead time. LOL Thanks for stopping by.

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  14. Oh how true. I absolutely loved that last line about cleaning "your hard drive" and that photo. Thank you for the morning giggles.
    My doctor told me that pregnancy, menopause and losing estrogen will cause you to lose nouns first. I found that interesting and thus far proven true for me.

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    1. Isn't that interesting! Maybe if I eat more soy I can get my language skills back. LOL Thanks for sharing that.

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