Women

I can’t remember anything anymore.

I just to store my grocery list easily in my brain. I knew my to-dos and carpool schedules, phone numbers, birthdays, passwords and the plumber’s name and where I parked my car.

I remembered all the stories about gruesome break ups and jerky colleagues, too. I could hang with each word, later recalling every detail whether the story was mine, a friend’s or a perfect stranger’s. plus, I could resurrect the feeling and get riled up all over again.

And I could definitely recount every grievance, no matter how old, dredging up the same fury or frustration from some obscure fight back in 192.

Not any more, my brain’s a typical menopausal sieve. And surprisingly, I don’t care.

I don’t actually have dementia. I did learn to keep all the practical stuff within touch-screen reach. My organizing gene stayed put and the best reward of midlife is laser clarity about what’s important. So, remembering everything else has lost its luster.

As research illustrates, we’re so strongly hardwired to miss the good and hang on to the bad that our heads are full of grating static:

We remember painful experiences far more than we remember pleasurable ones.

Bad information about a person carries more weight than good information.

It takes at least five positive interactions with someone to overcome just one negative interaction.

We lose the rush of delight much faster than we regain hope after an equally intense tragedy.

With just a few failed attempts we feel helpless and it takes far more successful tries to unravel the quagmire.

Why would I mourn the loss of that junk? If I’m drained, exhausted or mad it’s unfortunately more apt to stick- why would I want to mull it over later, too?

When I really listened, most of what passed through my day was a never ending loop of discordant noise: complaints, confusions, dramas or disagreements, speculations, assumptions, petty battles, loud opinions, stubborn indignation, and hurt feelings “He’s a jerk.” “She’s nefarious.” “That’s stupid.” “I’m a wreck,” when my memory was better, that’s unfortunately how I recorded my past. Useless clutter

The past helps the present only if it helps us stop the bad and repeat the good. But that’s a tough task for untrained memory- neurologically its wired to prefer the bad, fueling us to churn it over and over in our minds, demoralizing our present and leaving us hopeless about the future.

I’m not saying memory’s unimportant, I’m just suggesting we put too much pressure on it to make a positive contribution unless we intentionally rewire it.

I got happier once I couldn’t remember anything. My neuro-instincts to imprint the worst got a rest, so I seized the down-time to reconfigure.

I’d done my spiritual and psychological homework (another typical midlife symptom): I knew if I perceived a bad mouthing manager or mouthing off kid as well intentioned instead, I would get the results I wanted (health, satisfaction, a thriving life, not to mention the task done peacefully).

So, I forced myself to imagine and remember only the good, the hopeful and the powerfuly positive.

That tough manager wasn’t selfishly hoarding his turf he was mindfully protecting what he honestly thought his department needed.

That child wasn’t disrespectful she just wanted her objections heard. And if the hapy stuff really didn’t exist, I just made it up.

My friends considered me deluded. No matter what was going on in my real life (good and bad), I’d spin it better. Heck, I’d forgotten anyway, so what did it matter? Figured I might as well follow the sages’ advice and turn everything into a blessed gift.

The more I invented a great spin, the easier the exercise got. The easier the exercise got, the happier I grew. The better my real life became. My relationships deepened, my work expanded, my trust amplified and my anxious worry just about floated away. Life got fun, and I marveled as the cycle kept expanding.

About two years in, a series of gut-punches tested my resolve. I shepherded a rapid fire string of deaths and near deaths all loved ones, all without warning and one, a murder.

While I certainly did not pretend a great spin, I was able to plant my feet more firmly than during earlier times of lesser tragedies. It seemed as if my brain had become naturally more forgiving and more resilient than ever before.

I still cry if I remember that a young man almost shot my niece as she an shrieking for help, her sweet boyfriend bleeding to death on the lawn.

But this Christmas, merely two years later, when we celebrated her graduation and all her exciting future plans, we both agreed that my little experiment filled us solid enough to carry her through.

The secret truth is my memory seems to be coming back. These days I can, in fact, find my parked car at the airport without walking row to row hitting the unlock button.

But, I’m so attached to all the good stuff I invented when my memory was the pits this upward swing that keeps on lifting that I’m determined to forget there’s any other way to live.

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