I was just this side of asleep, lying in bed, early morning, remembering my just-waking thoughts.
I had realized two really good points regarding a thorny concept I’d been pondering for weeks. It was a breakthrough, a really good fit and very clarifying for me. Even at that early hour, I was pleased with myself.
As I lay there with my eyes closed but my thoughts clear, I was thinking “maybe I should write this down before I lose it, before it’s gone.” But they were such clear and meaningful ideas, how could I possibly forget them? Just as I made the conscious decision to not write them down with the pen and journal that were right next to my bed, a third idea popped into my mind that was a nice complement to the first two.
What couldn’t have been more than a minute later, I rolled out of bed, only to realize that I didn’t remember those two ideas of which I was so proud.
I sat quietly on the edge of the bed and focused, but they were gone, very gone. I was pissed off at myself for not writing them down. In a matter of seconds, I’d forgotten what had been so clear and memorable. I didn’t linger on the pissed off, as I tried to focus on what I’d forgotten. Then I became concerned. Was there something wrong with me?
My wife rolled over, asked me what was going on, and I explained. She was understanding, comforting and reassuring. The harder I tried to remember them, the more gone those two lovely ideas became. I had never forgotten something so completely and so quickly.
Then I got scared. Is this the beginning of the inexorable decline? Am I on the downhill slide? Is this the beginning of the end? And then scared became really scared.
I hadn’t felt this anxious before. The closest I could remember was when I had to force myself to walk into the courtroom to deliver the closing argument in my first murder trial. But even that was not like this scared and lost feeling. I felt, with my toe, the edge overlooking a precipice of degenerative dementia.
I sat with it as I worried. I learned from it while I was scared. I remembered Viktor Frankl’s space between stimulus and response. Then I tried to calm myself by thinking how it’s harder on the people who love a person with dementia. That didn’t work at all. I was still scared.
I remembered my wife’s advice to relax, let it go and eventually the thoughts would return. But so far, they were completely gone. It was difficult to relax. To me, in those moments, dementia was no longer a theoretical concept. I could feel it in my stomach.
In the end, my wife was right. The next day, after hours of angst, I remembered ever-so-lightly that third complementary thought, and an hour or so later my two breakthrough ideas popped full-blown back into my consciousness.
Intense. Sobering. Educational. Humbling.