Confessions of an absent-minded whatchamacallit
Not just my keys. I regularly misplace my wallet, my phone, my glasses, my hat… Almost every time I prepare to leave the house, I spend a few minutes trying to figure out where something that I need to take with me is. Several times every week my poor, long-suffering husband has to help me figure out where I left something.
And I hate it!
I have tried to fix this for pretty much my entire life. My mom used to tell the story of the day she found me wandering the house in tears, looking under papers, inside drawers, under the furniture, and so on, because I couldn’t find my glasses. I was seven or eight years old at the time. I told her I had looked everywhere. I was angry at myself for misplacing the glasses. I was afraid of what punishment my dad might mete out if they were broken or lost permanently. I was nearly hysterical.
So when Mom said, “But honey, you’re wearing your glasses!” I started to get even angrier because I thought she was teasing me. And then I reached up and touched my face.
I was wearing my glasses.
Unfortunately, most of the time when I misplace my keys or my wallet or whatever and have to ask my husband to help me look for them, it isn’t that easy to find them. I leave things in the strangest places. I have tried to make a habit of always putting my keys in the same place, for instance, and maybe 80% of the time I do. But not all the time. I have read books about ways to remember where I leave things. I have even taken classes (yes, you can find seminars in this sort of thing). All to little avail.
I can look at a number of my fundamental personality traits that contribute to my habit of misplacing things. Neuroscientific research shows some strong correlations between strong performance in areas such as the ability to quickly switch contexts, the ability to quickly memorize large amounts of information, and the ability to solve certain puzzles to a tendency to forget information not related to things we think are important at the time. As theoretical physicist Michio Kaku says in his latest book, The Future of the Mind, research shows that forgetting some things is an inherent part of the process of remembering others.
Which is little comfort at the moment that I’m running late but can’t find my wallet.
As much as this trait drives my husband (and probably all of my friends) crazy, it irritates me just as much. It’s very frustrating that all my efforts to change this aspect of my personality only results in a slight reduction in the number of times I forget things.
I am eternally grateful to my husband that he puts up with this (and my many other failings). Even more, I’m grateful that he doesn’t make me feel worse than I do on my own by nagging me for always losing things or otherwise point out how often I burden him with looking for my misplaced things.
Everyone has flaws like that. Yours might not be misplacing your keys, it may instead be something like forgetting to put the butter away when you’re finished with it, or forgetting to rinse of a dish when you’re done with it, or forgetting your significant other’s birthdays, et cetera, et cetera. We implicitly ask the people who care about us to put up with these flaws every day. And most of us have someone in our life who does it. They may roll their eyes or heave a sigh occasionally, but they continue to like us in spite of these shortcomings.
The very least we can do, then, is to extend them the same courtesy