By now, these are all-too-familiar scenes in my daily life.
I could be walking out from one room in my house en route to another. Or washing my cup right after breakfast. Or I’m whisking from one opened computer window to another on my laptop.
Whilst walking, washing or whisking, an idea, memory, random thought, or task-to-be-done would flit across my mind momentarily. I will then tell myself immediately to make a mental note of it.
Yet almost as soon as I’m done walking, washing, or whisking…Poof! The thought vanishes faster than a puff of smoke!
Welcome to the second half of life. Or, more specifically, my life!
Normal forgetfulness? Or…?
According to most medical websites, aging brings with it generally two forms of forgetfulness.
The first is the normal kind, meaning it’s no major cause for concern or a sign that some debilitating mental illness is waiting in the wings. These will include things like forgetting where you left your keys or glasses, momentarily forgetting the name of an old friend or ex-colleague, as well as failure to retrieve a memory on the tip of your tongue.
Oh, and also those all-too-familiar scenes I mentioned earlier when I lose a thought the instant it appears.
The second form of forgetfulness will be the one we dread deep-down: Dementia.
Symptoms include trouble making choices, getting disoriented or lost (even in places that ought to be familiar), and forgetting how to do things you’ve done a million times before.
I’m no expert in the medical details and diagnoses, nor is this meant to be that kind of blog post anyway.
However, now that I’m well into my 50’s, yet having the oldest of my offsprings still barely a teen, I would be careless if I didn’t at least consider what I must do to stave off senility for as long as I can. I mean, to amble along and let my mind atrophy when my kids are still heavily dependent on me and their mom?
How irresponsible would that be?!
Because, unfortunately, based on new research, the stakes are weighing in heavily against me!
Mustn’t lose any more sleep over it!
In April this year, results of a 25-year-long UK study was published that made me shudder, conjuring in my mind an unpleasant image of me slip-sliding down from normal forgetfulness to dementia.
Beginning in 1985, the study followed nearly 8,000 people 50 years and older, for a quarter of a century. They found that 30% of them developed dementia by the end of the study. These were folks who slept on average six hours or less daily (most experts recommend at least seven or eight fitful hours of sleep every night).
This peer-reviewed longitudinal study is a “solid piece of research” that adds to the increasing evidence that there’s a direct link between lack of sleep and dementia, according to University of Surrey’s sleep specialist Professor Derk-Jan Dijk.
And that result knocked me for a six; cos I definitely average less than six hours of sleep nightly! Sometimes, I even find myself getting by on merely two or three!
But can more be done to keep forgetfulness from going from bad to worse, other than more sleep and music lessons?
Well I found an answer a couple of days ago, when I read two articles that shared a similar theme, though it was not apparent on first reading.
“Fantasia Cycling” – to worlds of fun and enjoyment
The first was a light-hearted piece by a lady who, upon her return here from Japan this year, ended up being quarantined alone for 21 instead of the originally scheduled 14 days. She was fortunate to be placed in a reputed hotel in a room on a high floor, one with a panoramic view of the city’s commercial and civic districts.
To pass the time, she would spend her days listening to music, “brisk walking and biking” on the balcony, chanting or doing yoga.
Sounds commonplace enough.
Except that, suffused throughout her writing was a tone of immense gratitude, acceptance and peace. Not to mention imagination and adventure! This was pleasantly evidenced as she described herself ‘fantasia-cycling towards the sky’, passing as it were several landmark monuments in her make-believe journey downtown.
And when she still found herself locked-in on Mother’s Day, her grown-up son went to one of those monuments to wave to her so she could see him from her window, and snap a surprisingly un-grainy picture to mark his serenade!
Overall, I marvelled at her simple ability to look on the bright side of things, a necessary skill during these still-dark times of our lives. When many are more inclined to sink into the doldrums when locked up in a room for three long weeks.
“Ichigo Ichie” – cherishing life’s worthwhile moments
This was a straightforward ask-answer article done in part to promote his new book “Around the World in 68 Days“. Published last month, the book distils the essence and quintessential elements of 13 different nations which Koh visited back in 2018. They include places from as far away as Panama and Madagascar, to nearer locations like Japan and Taiwan.
The book’s publication date was actually delayed thanks to Covid, giving Koh the chance to rewrite all chapters through the lens of the pandemic.
In the article, Koh reflected on how we were previously in a Golden era of travel before Covid; unfortunately we had taken it for granted. Post pandemic, everything we once experienced before might well be a once-in-a-lifetime moment now.
Koh also shared how a friend once repeated to him the oft-mentioned saying “how time flies.”
That to Koh was illusory, since time has always moved at the same pace. So what’s changed really is the modern person’s perception of its pace. Koh’s contention is that if we have “fewer meaningful memories to look back on, the past will appear to have moved more quickly.”
To live out this insight in his own daily life, Koh employs the ancient Japanese spirit and concept of observing and cherishing life’s small, worthwhile moments, or ichigo ichie. These can include chance meetings, encounters, opportunities and seemingly innocuous details.
Now that sounds familiar to me in two ways!
Relishing the small, the realia and the minutiae of life
One was a specific reminder of a blog I posted last year about century-old businesses in Japan. The way they survived that long was to stay small, humble and long-suffering.
The other was more a general kind of reminder. If you’ve been following my blog closely (thanks heaps!), you’ll know that “small” is a theme that often shows up in my posts.
From how to write using one experience at a time, to sweating the small stuffs in my life, the daily small or minutiae is where I’ve always believed we ought to operate from. After all, life’s really made up of the daily, incalculable and small moments, far more than the big “firework events” that many crave but which are few and fleeting.
But now, thanks to both these articles, I’ve an added purpose to what’s become my life-long love affair with the “realia” or minutiae of daily existence.
And maybe an answer to this post’s title question too!
As Koh puts it so well, to “make life feel fuller, or to make time ‘pass more slowly’, we can put in more effort into two required actions: to create and to remember, more meaningful ichigo ichie moments in this brief, precarious life.”
Maybe now I can finally slow down time and my memory loss yeah?