Ok, so you started your day by looking everywhere for your keys–and they were in your hand all the time. You put your hot cup of coffee in the refrigerator (because you took out the bagels and cream cheese, which requires two hands, right?). You turned on your better half, accusing them of not putting the scissors back where they belong and–you remember that you took the scissors into the bathroom to cut a thread off your sweater…and left them there. Then on the way home from work, you somehow took the north exit instead of the south exit…and didn’t notice until you were nearly back at work again.
So, are you losing it? Should you be tested for Alzheimer’s? Are you getting dementia and just don’t realize it? Worse–deep breath–are you certifiably crazy? Probably ‘no’ to all these worries. The human mind is like a layer cake: there’s the family layer–keeping up with the kids’ after-school activities and your partner’s interests, the work layer–working a full or part-time job, the home layer–managing chores inside and outside the home, the pet layer–getting the pets to the vet for their check-ups, the vehicle layer–making sure the vehicles are maintained, and even the ME layer–all the stuff you want to do. And the “To Do” list grows ever longer. So it stands to reason that sooner or later, one or two of the layers will slip out of place, or right off the cake plate altogether.
When we are young and our brains are pink and juicy, we can remember everything. But because we’re young, our brains usually handle only a couple of layers: family, school, activities, etc. As the years go by, we have more stuff to remember, and we add more layers. The human mind is a wonderful machine, but I believe that over time it begins to compartmentalize things that are no longer immediately important. All that stuff goes into a storage area of the brain, to be retrieved when needed. All the stuff that needs immediate attention, such as ‘did I pick up the baby at day care?’ is right at the forefront of our brains. So far, so good.
My personal theory is that our brains start noticing all that wasted space in the storage area, thinking, ‘hey–he/she hasn’t looked in here for years! They probably don’t even remember half the stuff in here! I’ll bet they’ll never notice if I just dump this right down the spinal cord (the brain’s idea of a flush toilet). Then I can put this space to some really good use!’
This type of off-road brain activity happens in the dead of night when our brains are goofing with us anyway; giving us weird dreams, making us sleep walk or eat cookies. When we wake up, we of course have no memory of our old storage unit, because the brain has flushed it for us. So, when we do want to get something out of brain storage, such as ‘now where did I put that disco glitter ball?’ we can’t find it. We know we had it, but just can’t remember where it is. Again, my own theory, but I believe that this is why we start worrying about “losing it.” What we don’t realize is that we have lost our storage area, not necessarily our minds.
Then there is the not-so-funny ‘word salad syndrome.’ This happens when we have a word in our heads, such as “stepladder,” but we end up saying “sushi” instead. It’s embarrassing and a little scary. Again, I blame the brain for messing with us. So the next time you freak out when you can’t remember where your L.L. Bean canvas jacket went to, or whether or not your took your vitamins this morning, or why your cup of coffee is in the refrigerator, don’t worry. It’s probably not Alzheimer’s at all, but Partial-Heimer’s, courtesy of our devious brains.
…hey, what happened to my bagel and cream cheese? It was right here a minute ago… <insert maniacal laughter from my brain here>