“What was the name of that movie, you know, the one that I liked with that older guy? What’s his name?”
The names you seek are right on the tip of your tongue, but you simply cannot remember, and when you go to copy a phone number down, you transpose one or more numbers. You now cannot ignore that you have had some short-term memory loss. This recognition can be really upsetting at first, but then you may decide to just let it go, stop beating yourself up and sweating the small stuff. No big deal, and anyway, your friends are just like you; they can’t remember things either.
But eventually the loss of recall becomes more problematic when you can’t remember where you put the cellphone, or the credit card or the keys, with so much time and effort wasted trying to find lost possessions. This problem is really obvious when you cannot find your car in a large parking lot. You wander around the aisles while pushing your cart and pressing the beeper over and over, hoping no one notices you and your car are lost.
With each passing year, the clarity of our thinking may have diminished, but still it is important to maintain some control over careless behaviors that create frustration and stress. Staying aware (mindful) is called for, so as to better avoid losing things. Paying attention is the first step, and then speaking out loud to yourself is one helpful way to remember. “I am putting my cellphone on the night table.” “I am parking the car four rows to the left of the front door.”
In these boomer years, and beyond, it is equally crucial to be more aware of the body and how it feels. You can’t heal what you can’t feel, and you can’t feel unless you are in your body. We all know people who mostly “live in their heads” while ignoring their body. Perhaps they sit slouched over a desk all day and then ... no surprise ... develop ongoing pain in their back or shoulders or neck or legs. They may resign themselves to these aches and pains by saying, “Oh well, I must be getting older.” However, when their body is feeling so unhappy, if caught in time, there could be some simple remedies, beginning with improving their posture every time they sit in the chair. They could also commit to getting out of the chair and moving away from the desk each hour or two, walking around a bit, doing some stretching. These simple changes could improve their life and prevent further deterioration in their joints.
When we were younger, we could get away with a lot more, but sooner or later, the body will insist we pay better attention to it. Ignoring symptoms usually does not make them go away. Paying attention to your body while moving in space is equally called for, especially when you notice that with advancing age, your balance is compromised, like on a slippery surface or while shoveling snow.
I had my wake-up call one day while walking down the steps from my second floor. Besides being steep, the stairs also were a bit slippery in my stockinged feet. I carried a tray full of plates and a glass, and when I got to the fifth-from-the-bottom step, I found myself suddenly airborne. The plates and glasses smashed all around me while I plunged forward, headed (literally) for the glass door. It must have been divine intervention that kept me from serious injury, just a little shock and some bruising on the arm that broke the fall. I revisit that scene from time to time, reminding myself to stay present and watchful when using the steps, to concentrate on one thing at a time.
You, too, probably can think of an instance, or several, when you were distracted, not watching where you were going, and had a serious incident or a “near miss.” In those scary times, we may decide it’s best to learn from past mistakes, taking better care and to replace multitasking with focusing on one thing at a time.
Beyond awareness of our bodies, we can benefit by carrying mindfulness into our thoughts, our emotions, our words, our motives, our actions and our spiritual lives.
The practice of mindfulness has three prerequisites:
the courage to feel and experience each moment as it comes up
kindness and compassion for what you may discover within yourself
a willingness to regularly apply this practice
Here and now may be the perfect time for you to begin this practice.
Angelena Craig of Newburyport teaches Wellness Workshops, Kripalu Slow Flow Yoga, and “Sit Down and Move” classes to boomers and beyond. Visit her website at www.thenewagingmovement.com or email email@example.com.