Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What Did You Say?

I used to have a great memory. Poetry, phone numbers, names with faces, song lyrics, equations, definitions, Bible verses, addresses. Lots and lots of useful and some useless stuff rattled around in my brain, within easy reach for when I needed something. Then I had kids, sleep deprivation, serious illnesses, injury, chronic pain, depression, stress, and then the inevitable entrance into my 40s. The stuff was still there, but the files were dusty, and some of the drawers were hard to open, and some of the file cabinets had been moved. But there. Today? Not so much.

I first noticed the change when I started working as an office manager. I had a lot of new stuff to learn. Procedures, definitions, operating various office machines I had never used before, more phone numbers and FAX numbers, account numbers and part numbers. An entire vocabulary of words related to the industry of measuring flow through pipes for industrial processes. Our products had names that consisted of a string of code descriptors, ten in a name, many choices for each category. I'll spare you a detailed example, but it was understanding that whole string that made the bookwork much easier, and I got it. It made me feel incredibly empowered. After a short while, I no longer had to look up part numbers, or wonder why the customer hadn't chosen a diameter size. He had ordered an insertion meter, rather than one integrated into the line, and I didn't need to know the size. I was good at my job.

My memory now? Shot to hell. When I first was fired, I held onto that info like it was a life-raft and soon someone would recognize the hideous mistake they'd made and would rescue me and say, “You're the only one who has all that memorized. No one can replace you. We're so sorry. We have to have you back.” This wasn't a realistic fantasy, mind you, but since when are fantasies realistic? Kinda ruins the whole “fantasy” part of it, right?

I wasn't just forgetting stuff that I could look up if I couldn't remember. I was forgetting whole conversations. Stuff I'd promised my kids I'd do. “But MOOO-om, you promised us Dairy Queen!” I was, shall we say, frighteningly forgetful. Until the day I came to terms with the fact that even IF they offered me my wonderful job back, I was not going to take it. My kids needed me at home. They are my life priority. I had (painfully) realized that while I was chasing the dream job that would give The Engineer HIS dream job, our boys had been left in the dust. To fend for themselves. Not literally, we were there, they were only alone about an hour a day due to flex time, but in reality. I was too tired to patiently listen to YellowBoy explain how he'd finally beaten the 4th boss on the really high level and Jake hadn't. I was spent, and didn't have patience to help with homework. I dropped into bed the minute I'd put them to bed.

I don't remember (ha, now that's funny!) exactly how long I'd been home when I decided to purge {name of company}'s entire existence from my iPhone. I think it must have asked me ten times if I really wanted to actually delete 85% of my contacts, two email accounts, half my notes, and the ability to connect with their wi-fi. Yes. I. Do. Pushed the button. My phone moaned and groaned as all that data was ripped out, then lay quietly waiting for me. I lifted my glass of chardonnay in salute, and told my brain to do the same dump. Just forget it all.

It actually worked. Me dumping those files from my brain. The Engineer had (seriously) thought I was having mental problems with all the forgetting, and was worried. Suddenly, I was back to being a walking rolodex, managing the family affairs without gaffes, or, “Did I really say that?” I wasn't losing my mind. My job had just taken up all the bandwidth.

So you're great now, you ask. Well. No. I'm somewhere in the middle. I'm glad my precious iPhone remembers so much for me, and has alarms and alerts and a calendar that syncs with my mac. I do remember conversations, just not always all the content. Saw my doctor, who assured me that I was normal. Well, normal for a person with my level of stress. My age. Raising teenagers. And taking on too much. But that's OK with me. I just dumped data. Not willing to dump my personality.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

So the job was sucking up all of the data space? Is that what happens? I thought I was just getting old...
Good for you for staying home with your boys, though. I think we've lost so much when it comes to family because of both parents working.
And beating the fourth boss IS important.

Brian Miller said...

ugh you mean this is going to get worse...smiles...i think i may be getting to capacity on my mental hard drive...i def need to do an info dump of some of the useless knowledge i have packed away...

J. Kwiatkowski-Schuler said...

Good for you! I always assumed I would go back to work when my kids got to school age, but I still feel like they need me. In fact, now when they are older it seems more important to be there. Anyone can wipe up a drooling baby, but it takes a parent to listen and care!

Tracy Jo said...

Hello! Just stopping by from Pearson Report. I so can relate to this post and maybe that is exactly what I need to do. PURGE! :-)

Marta Szemik said...

I think I'm experiencing something familiar, and to add to that, I have a problem remembering faces. Part of me thinks it's because there's so much else to concentrate on, I prioritize what to remember.
Way to go staying with the kids! I know how much it takes to make that decision. I left a very good job for my kids as well, and haven't looked back since.

Arlee Bird said...

I keep trying to figure out what data to dump. What if I need it later? I need to purge too because my memory is getting muddled with too much information.

Tossing It Out

Cheryl said...

This is a story that needed telling and I was the person who needed to read every last word. Your writing seems extremely relaxed in this piece, almost effortless. I know writing well isn't as easy at some make it look.

Your world is completely different from mine. After savoring every last word you've written, I can tell we are not at all unalike where it matters ~ on the inside.

Thank you for this.

mish said...

You're so right when you say that it's a "bandwidth" problem. Experiments have shown that memory lapses that come with age are not just because of the brain slowing down. Instead, it's more a case of the well-used mind finding it more difficult to stop irrelevant information interfering with the task at hand.
We have to de-clutter/spring clean the overloaded mind from time to time.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Never dump your personality; I dig it!

You know, I read an article the other day about how the internet is truly dumbing us down. The reason being that we know we can look something up, pull up a number in our phone, Google anything we don't remember, so our brains have literally stopped holding on to new information. It is no longer necessary, so we don't do it. Weird, huh?

Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the A-to-Z; we're gearing up for the upcoming 2012 A-to-Z Challenge!

Patty said...

This was great! I, too, feel that I am losing my mind at times. In my case, however, it is Menopausal Insanity! :)