This past Monday, I was walking in Boston enjoying the unseasonably warm weather when I came up with the perfect idea for a blog. It was so perfect, in fact that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t come up with the idea before. It was so perfect, that within minutes the blog had a beginning, middle and an end. It was so perfect that it wrote itself.
Heading home a few hours later, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what my idea for the blog was. Not the idea, not the beginning, not the middle or the end.
At first, I figured it was just another brain freeze moment. The kind Rick Perry had during the debate when he couldn’t remember one of the three federal departments he would eliminate if elected president. The kind that I have when I walk into the kitchen with a clear purpose and a second later, I’m wandering about said kitchen having no idea what I came into the kitchen for. But nine times out of ten, just when I think that my short-term memory is really on the fritz, I remember. I empty the dishwasher or retrieve my reading glasses or defrost the steak tips. Nine times out of ten, I’m in the clear.
But even while I tried to retrace my literal and figurative steps in the city, the places I walked and the thoughts I had, there were no brain breadcrumbs leading me to the trail, no clues as to what my perfect blog idea might have been.
I can remember, years ago, my sister-in-law telling me she was coming down with a case of CRS. As a self-proclaimed Jewish Buddhist who still carries with her a good measure of Jewish neurosis, I was both worried for her and afraid I would catch it. I had taken a few steps away from her, in case CRS was an airborne bacteria, and asked her what CRS was, what the diagnosis meant.
“CRS stands for Can’t Remember Shit,” she told me. “Just wait until you’re my age, you’ll get it too.”
So as I was driving home, I worried both about my future with CRS, and also what it means that what I thought was such a profound idea for my blog could so easily be forgotten.
Clearly, it wasn’t such a great idea after all.
When I talked to my mom later that day, she reassured me that forgetting happens, there was no need to worry. She told me that I’d probably remember it at some point.
It’s been three days, and I have to tell you, I have no clue what idea had captivated me so much that I couldn’t wait to sit down at Starbucks with my vanilla latte and write what was, at least in that moment, so clearly in my head.
My dad has Alzheimer’s. There are many things he can’t remember. If we’re at a restaurant, he’s not sure if we’ve already ordered. He forgets that he no longer drives a car. His long-term memory is good, but his short-term memory challenges him.
So much of our lives are lived in our heads, with ideas and conversations often about the same things over and over again: work, family, the logistics of running a household. We think about the past, we plan for the future. We remember to do some things, we forget to do others.
This past weekend, Steve and I remembered to set the clocks ahead one hour. I remember commenting to him that spring will be here in just a couple of weeks. But I can’t help thinking about my friend’s four-year-old son. Getting dressed for pre-school the other day, he looked up at his mother and pronounced: Spring begins today. She explained that spring starts in a few weeks, but having been outside in the warm sunshine that morning, he would hear none of that. Spring started that day, with the crocuses peaking out, the sunshine and soft breeze warming his face, and the birds singing out. It wasn’t about a calendar, or remembering the day spring begins. For him, it began that moment, when everything he associated with spring was there, right then, right in front of him .
So big deal; I forgot my idea for my blog. If it were worth remembering, it would have come back to me. In the end, it really wasn’t so important but for those few hours, it was really driving me crazy. I realize now that I could learn a lot from my friend’s four-year-old:
Be with what is now
Be flexible in how you experience the world
Sometimes facts are less important than feelings
I had loved walking in Boston in the beautiful March weather that felt more like June, but I negated all of it for a while pushing and pushing myself to remember what I had forgotten. And what was really worth remembering, in the long run, was the sun and warm breeze on my face, the crocuses sprouting up, the birds singing overhead.
As my dad moves through this stage of his life, having to let go little by little the memories he carries, I wish him the blessing of living in the present with what is, so that he can experience the simple everyday joys like my mom calling him into the kitchen to show him that the swans have returned to the pond for the spring, or my mom finding the Bull’s basketball game on TV for them to watch and holding his hand as they sit side by side on the couch.
So much of our time on this Earth is spent either remembering the past or trying to plan for the future. But living too much in either space makes it much harder to simply live in the present, in just this very moment.
There’s that old cliché’: Life is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present. So good-bye whatever blog idea I had that I can’t remember. And when I come down with another bout of CRS, I’m going to try to gracefully just let it go, and look with new eyes the space I’m in at that moment.