Where in the heck are my keys?

Lately the dang things have grown legs and that’s not all.

I tend to wander while I check emails, pay bills while I talk on the phone, and straighten up the office while I meet my deadlines. I text while doing laundry, making dinner, and heating up the shower. I do writing research during otherwise idle time in the loo. (Come on, you know you read in there, too.) I am one of the great multitaskers on the planet. My proficiency at maximizing the amount of junk I get done in any one moment astounds me. I am hot.

But, wait. I walk into a room, and stop in my tracks. I glance around, puzzled. “Why in the heck did I come into this room? What was I looking for? I know there’s a reason I walked in here!” It doesn’t matter for what, or why the room is used. The reason for jaunting in there has simply evaporated, poof, into the ether. My confidence fizzles. Aahhhh, the rise of “senior moments,” forgetfulness, of losing our grasp on daily details. The taking forever for our memory to kick in for recall of significant moments of our lives, and the logical place we stored something.

Our day of reckoning is here with the dreaded realization that we can’t remember “what’s his name’s” name in Apocalypse Now, or the chord progression for “Stairway to Heaven,” or a paragraph we just read in the paper. We’re holding up grocery lines with PINS that have dissipated from our brains between the grocery aisles and the checkout. And don’t get me started about the car keys. Where in the heck are they? So what if I don’t hang them in their rightful place when I walk in the door? So what if I unconsciously drop them on a chair, or leave them in a pocket? How hard could they be to find?

How hard, indeed. The dang things love “hide and seek,” taunting me as I scramble through the house, working up a frenzy to leave. The fact is, this has become a daily routine. Is it dementia? Mercifully, the answer is “not likely.”

German researchers recently announced good news for all of us who can no longer find our keys, or carry on an intelligent conversation without telltale expressions of “Oh, yeah, who was that?” or “Oh, shoot, give me a moment!” or “Dang, what was the name of that show where what’s-her-name shot that guy, you know, that strange lookin’ dude?”

It turns out that we’re all experiencing brain fade not because we’re ascending in age, but because we’re adding so much new knowledge daily to our brains, they’re stuffed FULL. Our brains are like computers, and different stages of life affect data recall. The less information in the computer, as in “young” person, the faster data is retrieved. In our case, new information is being assimilated as quickly as it can. Old facts are being dug out of an increasingly deep pile of life’s accumulated, well, you fill in your own blank. “The brains of older people do not get weak,” says Michael Ramscar of Germany’s Tubingen University to the U.K.’s The Independent. “On the contrary, they simply know more.” Aha! We’re not feeble minded! We’re just brilliant, like Einstein, except for the wild hair!

Throughout our years of relentless pursuit of knowledge and the search for meaning, our brains accumulated more information than we can juggle at one time. All of our memories of places visited, the names of everyone we’ve ever met, and everything else we’ve learned, has stacked up. We must sift through it for recall of even the simplest thing, like the location of the car keys.

Now, a word to all of us boomers about my above-mentioned multitasking. In 2008 a study was unveiled in The New Atlantis Journal of Technology and Society about the illusion of brain comprehension while doing more than one thing at once. It reports that as early as 2005, Hewlett-Packard funded research by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London to determine how distractions in business, a.k.a multitasking, affect our mental capabilities.

Folks, it turns out that if we are doing emails and phone calls all at once, we “suffer a FALL IN IQ MORE THAN TWICE that found in marijuana smokers.” Remember that commercial in our day, with eggs frying in a pan? The voiceover said, “This is your brain on drugs.’’ Multitasking is like smoking a doobie. We think we’re mastering the universe, but we’re just getting stoned without the buzz.

Hey, everyone is deluded by the lure of multitasking. Young mothers juggle a crying baby, a whining toddler, food preparation, and telephone conversations, all at once. No wonder they occasionally forget the first-grader at school. Law enforcement officials who are driving, looking around, checking onboard computers, and wondering why we’re not driving with both hands on the wheel really aren’t focused. Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of Crazy Busy, says that multitasking is a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.” Even Millennials are lousy at this, and experts wonder how it will affect the world’s future productivity.

Okay, so how can we improve cognitive function, other than dropping multitasking? Researchers say that exercise, weight management, non-smoking and low alcohol consumption contribute to a 60% drop in tendency toward dementia. Exercise alone has a huge preventive effect, according to the journal Neurology.

Now, aren’t you glad I read this research while I was running the vacuum cleaner? I’m okay, you’re okay and our knowledge is still in our brains somewhere. When I figure out where, I’ll let you know. I kept the studies in a logical place for future reference. For the life of me, though, I can’t remember where.


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