I’m doing all the right things. I’m eating right, exercising, staying mentally active, getting good sleep, and hanging with friends whenever possible…and I’m still making lots of mistakes. What’s up with that?
Well…actually…nothing. It’s perfectly normal. The brain research doesn’t promise that you’ll stop making errors. It doesn’t even say you will have significant improvements in your memory, language skills, motor or executive functions. All it says is that your decline will be slower than it would have been had you not done all the right things.
It’s akin to trying to protect a sand castle you built on the beach. You can pile wet sand around it to keep out the incoming tide, and that will work for a little while. Your castle might last a little longer than the one 3 umbrellas over, but at some point, it will be lost. The idea, though, is to enjoy it as long as possible. And that’s about all we can ask and hope for.
Unfortunately, we only get to live life once, so we’ll never get to compare the two trajectories for ourselves. We just have to take it on faith that living a brain-healthy lifestyle gives us our best shot at preserving our mental faculties for as long as possible.
So what kind of screw-ups have I committed recently? Here are three that stand out:
1. We made an overnight visit to Virginia to help my niece Kay celebrate her 70th birthday. On the return trip, we detoured to Harper’s Ferry for some sightseeing, arriving home around 6pm.
At our apartment building we need to put the garbage outside our doors between 6-8pm for pick-up later that evening, so I was glad we got home early enough for me to get it out on time.
It’s usually picked up by 9pm, but when I went to bring the receptacle back in at 9:15, it still hadn’t been picked up. And not at 10pm, either. I checked once more at 10:30 and it still hadn’t been picked up.
I wondered what was wrong, as this had never happened before. If there was going to be a disruption in trash collection services, we always got an email notice from management, but that hadn’t happened.
So I looked up and down the hall to see if our neighbors’ trash had been removed and immediately noticed that no one else had put their container out.
I knew full well that garbage is picked up 5 nights each week, Sunday through Thursday…and it was SATURDAY!
2. I was making a grilled cheese sandwich for Sally and had just placed it into the frying pan to brown when she asked me to help her with a problem she was having ordering concert tickets online.
I walked over to her chair, picked up her computer, and quickly found the problem. I clicked my way through the various menus and got to the point where she could finalize payment…when I smelled something burning.
I had completely forgotten about the grilled cheese sandwich! Fortunately, the living room where Sally was sitting and the kitchen bookend a single open area and so I was able to see, hear, and smell what was on the stove from where I was standing. I sprinted the length of the apartment in record time and was able to get the pan off the burner before the sandwich was completely ruined.
That might have been my worst mistake to date. It had the potential to be disastrous. And it’s the kind of thing we, unfortunately, hear about all too often. It frequently signals the beginning of the descent into a world where there is reason to question our ability to live independently.
3. “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”
Remember that line from “Cool Hand Luke?” That scene had to do with Paul Newman’s resisting the authority of the prison boss…which has nothing at all to do with the misunderstanding that Sally and I had last week. I just love that line, which is why I quoted it. 😀
Our ‘failure to communicate’ was not at all passive aggressive on my part. Sally asked me if I would do something for her while she was visiting a friend in New Hampshire and I said that I would. The problem, though, is that what I thought she wanted me to do and what she actually wanted me to do bore no resemblance to each other!
So when the time came, I remembered full-well that I had an assignment, taking several actions to make certain that I could fulfill my responsibility. I was ready. The problem was that I was faithfully attempting to fulfill the wrong task.
Upon her return home the next night, Sally was not at all pleased to learn that I hadn’t done what she asked. We tried to recall the conversation where things went awry and both of us had solid recollections supporting our respective positions.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Sally did, indeed, say what she intended to say and that I latched on to an errant phrase and ran with it in a different direction, leading to the snafu. Regrettably, other people were involved.
We all know that you can’t remember something if you don’t first pay attention to it, so I guess I need to work on my listening skills, as well.