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A common malady, revisited

May 29, 2014
Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Dear fellow-Moseyers, While reviewing old files recently, I came across this gem from way back in 1991. Since I'm still plagued by the problem it addresses, I thought you might be, too. Has anyone found a cure yet?

My friend Bill complained the other day that he was going through "mental pause."

The comment was a breakthrough. Bill had finally put a name to this strange, muddled condition that has been bugging me.

I'm in that transitional age, somewhere between Vanna White and Betty White. And, like the amazingly ageless Betty, I'm sure my brain has lots of years left on its warranty. But lately, it seems the trivia of a lifetime ... phone numbers, addresses, recipes, song lyrics ... have nearly overloaded my on-board computer. I need to install more memory, a sort of mental hard disk.

But if that fails, I'll have to find a way to delete such non-essential information as the instructions for how to use a slide rule and the entire musical score of "Guys and Dolls."

In the meantime, I've given up relying strictly on memory. These days, the house is strewn with bits of paper that serve as constant reminders. Plastered across the refrigerator door, on tablets by the bedroom phone and across my office desk, there are tiny memory joggers that bear brief messages, urging me to complete some task.

The only problem with this method is that many notes, written in the heat of fleeting thought, are recorded in hieroglyphics. Such messages as "cl ph re rfl" and "mk bp ap.," are poor reminders to call the pharmacy about a refill of my prescription and make a beauty parlor appointment.

And I'm finding my powers of concentration are not what they used to be. Unless I'm totally absorbed, it's easy to get distracted these days. Often my train of thought simply leaves the station without me.

I remember the long-ago days when I could study for college finals in the middle of the student union building while animated conversations raged all around me. Now, I relish a quiet corner for my deepest thinking. I've found that earplugs can make an acceptable substitute if a quiet corner isn't available.

When my brain is especially busy, jumping from thought to thought, my usual efficiency at such activities as making phone calls simply disappears. I find myself, phone in hand, listening to someone at the other end say with growing frustration, "Hello. Hello?"

And, for a long moment, I don't have a clue who I called.

Another symptom of mental pause is that a growing number of the people I see look like someone I've known before. Time and time again, I've had to stop myself from walking up to a complete stranger and saying, "Excuse me, but aren't you?"

I've learned others are burdened with this curse, too. I was recently shopping with a pal when she spotted a dark-haired woman across the store. She took a long look then whispered to me, "Hey, isn't that..? No, I guess not."

There's no doubt about it. Mental pause is actively spreading among the AARP set.



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