Looking for Things
How much time, energy and stress do we lose and exert by looking for things? We often hear ourselves and others say something like, “my memory is failing…what is that word; where did I put my keys; I can’t remember her name…” You rarely hear a teenager question their cognitive health over this type of occurrence. The paradox is that the more stressed out we get for not finding our keys or the word, the longer it takes. “Chronic stress is nothing but bad news for our ability to remember.”
There is no question that as we live longer, our memories diminish, which is how it should be. According to Lisa Genova, a neuroscientist, and author of Remember, “this is not indicative of disease… it is how we are designed.”
From all the reading and listening I have done on memory loss, one of the number one things we can do is “pay attention.” You can’t remember where you parked your car – this is often not a memory issue but a lack of attention issue. You didn’t take note of where you parked. I have an assistant that goes everywhere with me – my phone. I take a photo of where I park, especially in indoor parking lots with lots of elevators and exits, or on the BC Ferries. (Losing my car on the ferry when I was about 49 years old cured me of daydreaming as I locked my car and went up to the passenger lounge, clueless of where my car was parked.)
That same assistant takes photos of a new favourite bottle of wine, a quote I like, the packaging of a pillow that has cured my neck pain… and so on. The brain is not designed to remember everything, but we up our chances of remembering essential things by strengthening our ability to pay attention at this moment. Consequently, getting better at “attention,” also reduces our stress. We can practice this skill through things like yoga, mindfulness, and meditation; walking in nature – these are just a few things that help improve attention and help reduce chronic stress.
There are also evidence-based reasons to doodle when we are listening to a lecture or making a plan. Sketch a picture. Use colour. These things help us remember later. And yes, make the lists. Those list-makers among us can take a bow. It is a fallacy to think that we should not forget all the little things we need to do. Apparently, the brain likes lists.
A Favourite Tip
But one of my favourites is don’t put it down, put it away. Or follow through with your action from beginning to end. When I do this, my life is better. Sounds so simple so why don’t I do it all the time? Some of the reasons include rushing, being tired, the table being close by, and cramming too many things together, so I will just put it here for now...but very quickly, there is a pile.
When it is hot and humid in the summer, I can barely manage the essentials. Now, however, the days can be hot, but the nights are cool and the humidity is low. This is my window of opportunity to regroup, plan, file, and donate. A self I am more satisfied with. I don’t mean better. There are all kinds of super-organized people who aren’t easy to be around, but there is a happy medium. In the spring and fall, I shift more towards the maxim – don’t put it down, put it away. It reduces my internal angst and frees up time because I can easily find things. Everything has a home, and I am more apt to put it there. Frankly, I love that.
Letting go of things is the most challenging. And it doesn’t have to be an ascetic’s life. The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning is an inspiring little book to consider how to part with “stuff” that you no longer need, nobody wants and takes energy to care for. It isn’t depressing, either. Instead, it helps free up our space and energy and gives our family the ultimate gift: a relatively orderly departure, when that time comes.
And while we are living, we have the luxury of less is more. An aesthetic of beauty, simplicity and letting go. It is easy for some to do this and make it a lifestyle. It’s easy for me to do it but harder to maintain after the euphoria has died off and I get in my own way with competing purposes.
However, I am inspired by the stories of what it took for friends to clear out the houses of their loved ones. (Especially big houses where they lived for 50 years.) There really is no one size fits all formula despite the Maria Kondo effect or the Swedish method of death cleaning. One good friend tells me she doesn’t worry about these things. All of her children are in the same city and they can hire a firm to come and take care of most things. I think we need to constantly adapt any of these hints and methods to our particular lives. There is no right way. Trust our own take on what needs doing and start anywhere and start as many times as we want.
climbing Mt Fuji.
This Haiku was penned by Issa (1763-1828)
1:) Spring and fall are the seasons that work for me to reevaluate, learn new things and make little changes. They are my favourite seasons. Winter is more hibernation, and summer is doing my best to find the shade and have fun with family and friends.
2:) The twins are thriving, and the parents as expected – exhausted and deliriously happy.
3:) I am attending the 11th International Morita Congress, for the next three days, held this year in Vancouver. Fortunately, they offer a hybrid conference so that I can participate via Zoom. I am interested in the evolving nature of Morita therapy and the “Morita informed” elements, which is what I work with.
4:) I love the caterpillar banner photo (will most likely become a moth) that son Rob took in Vancouver—I just learned that the Fraser Wild Garden, here in Ottawa, is conducting research on monarchs and climate change. Determining what plants, when stressed by hotter summers, will best nourish the butterflies. Or if it makes any difference to the nectar. I plan to pay the garden a visit.
5:) In honour and loving memory of those who have died this month with a wish for solace for their loved ones.
6:) Finally, a deep bow to all of my readers. May you have what you need, and may you experience moments of joy and love. Warmly, Trudy