Saturday, May 23, 2020

Echoes In The Braincase

One of the perks of a digital life is it is possible to present oneself to others neatly giftwrapped, and even add a rumpled bow of modesty and self-deprecation. One can think about it. Engineer it. Why, not too long ago one of you fine commenters here said I was "smart."

This is not so easy to pull off in person. And it's particularly hard to do in the presence of younger people. And I don't know what happened, but there are more and more of them around all the time.

I am well tolerated by the younger people in my life, all of whom I cherish. Now they are smart as hell. They have interesting opinions and different perspectives. I like to listen to them and every now and then I like to snap back with something witty. Problem is, a lot of the witty zone coincides with "things I just thought of five seconds ago." And things that happened five seconds ago live in a sort of quickly escaping vapor. I usually remember the first few words of my witty remark, but then I stick in placeholder grunts, hoping the rest of my thought will stroll by, but sometimes it doesn't, and then I have to say "I lost it there, but it'll come back."

The young people give me a fond and indulgent smile and assure me it will come back, even though it won't, and they know that by now. It's embarrassing. But they're so darn nice. "She's slipping," I see in their thought balloons, but you can see smiley emoticons in there too. I can't refute it. The whole thing has led me to be a better listener, or look just like one. I don't enjoy people witnessing my thoughts evaporate. Acting like I'm listening keeps me from looking as foolish, and is a good idea anyway.

I'm not actually listening. I am at first, but then I start thinking of something else altogether, usually a scene in a novel, or a reminiscence, or the state of the world, and my only connection to the conversation at that point is the attentive look on my face that I hope is still pointed in the correct direction. AND THIS IS WHEN I'M TALKING TO INTERESTING PEOPLE.

Authentic Old Person, With Bran
I'm not as embarrassed around people my own age. We're all kind of a mess. True, in my case some of them watch my neurons failing to connect and secretly put it down to the beer, but they understand anyway. If it wasn't the beer, it'd be something else.

There's a theory going around among older people that this phenomenon has something to do with having one's head so filled with wisdom that some of it needs to be off-loaded, and we have gained insight into what is important to keep and what is not. This is, of course, self-serving baldercookies. The fact is, if there were any more dead air in our brains our neurons wouldn't even touch each other.

Herewith a real dialog example:

     Me: "I'm trying to think of that word. You know, that word? That means, like, you really enjoy something, but it isn't anything you did yourself."

     Person: "Plagiarism?"

     Me: "No, no, more like something...vicarious." 

     Person: "Hmm. Vicarious?"

     Me: "Yeah! That's it! Thanks!" [bounces away]

     Person: [listens for head rattle]

Yes. That really happened. Probably. I do write fiction. It's either real or it's not, I don't remember.

40 comments:

  1. Oh, man.... I do this more and more lately. I've always had a very good vocabulary. But now I find myself grasping for a word... one I have commonly used a lot... and I know the meaning of it... and I think I remember what letter it starts with.... So I check my thesaurus to see if I can find it there. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Usually it will finally come to me as I'm watching Netflix and I'll suddenly shout it out, to the consternation of my husband, who is wondering why I'm shouting some random word apropos of nothing.

    This is why I prefer comment forms and e-mails. I can refer to my dictionary to make sure the word I intend to use has the precise meaning I intend. I can use the thesaurus to find a better one. I can refer to my "quote book." When people only know me from e-mails, I can be freakin' Oscar Wilde. In real life... I do a lot of erm, and ahh, and ummm.

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    1. I'm way more comfortable in print. Although it has been noted I rarely shut up in person.

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  2. Words escape me. Literally. With people my own age, it doesn't matter so much as it seems more and more universal. That doesn't mean I like it, but I am getting used to it.

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    1. Just occurred to me that watching my brainfade might be WHY young people hang around me. It must be beguiling.

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    2. We are here to entertain.

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    3. Gee thanks, guys. I was looking for a new Purpose In Life.

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  3. On the desktop of my laptop is a Word file titled, "Words that Escape Me". 'Nuff said.

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    1. I should have one that says "Words I have to look up every time."

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    2. Well...if I've floundered for a word only once, it doesn't get added to the file. There are several words that I've floundered on, for years!

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  4. "Pachysandra." This is the word, and the only word, my husband will utter when I am stumped. Not sure why. I must have forgotten it once, I can't remember.

    My beloved Aunt Ellen would say, after telling a wonderful story, "I am not sure if that really happened or if I made it up!"

    We took her to a museum. "That was wonderful!" she said. "I learned so much, and then I forgot it all again!"

    What were we talking about?

    By the way, "Cannabis researchers in Canada say the plant-based drug may provide resistance to SARS-CoV-2." Just sayin'

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    1. Pachysandra! For a while there Dave used to holler "Penstemon" in the same circumstances. Now he says "Seventeen."

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    2. Pachysandra had me reaching for my dictionary which is always within arm's reach, only to find it isn't in there, so I reached for the thesaurus, also always within arm's reach and it isn't there either :( I did find Pachyderm, which means elephant and pachydermatous, which means thick skinned.

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    3. It's an attractive ground cover that can thrive in shade.

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  5. I never functioned well in real time, even when I was a sprightly youth. God bless comment boxes, in which the temporally challenged can appear in all their revisionist glory.

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  6. Hah! It's so true what you and the other readers are saying here about being better in print than in real time. At mealtime my husband and I don't have to come up with nearly as many topics these days; we hesitate our way through our sentences while we search our mental dictionaries for the word we want. It's getting a bit disconcerting.

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  7. The cruelest irony? That I can remember vividly when my 5th grade class had a contest to find the longest word in the English language. I still have mental picture of Nancy Arnold (who lived on 29th St., and whose parents had one of the first Buick Rivieras) standing in front of the class and carefully pronouncing "Floccinaucinihilipilification". And here I sit, in 2020, asking my partner if he remembered to bring "the thing for that thing....". Indeed, my hard drive is full....

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  8. "...have *a* mental picture..."

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  9. Even stale air takes up space. My brain is full. And resists any attempts to extract things which I KNOW (I think) are in there.

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    1. A closed mind used to mean something bad. Now it's just self-preservation.

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  10. Here's how it feels to me: my words are stored in mental filing cabinets and when I want a word, my librarian used to know precisely where it was stored and she instantly retrieved it just in time for me to utter it. Now though she's a bit arthritic, slow, and easily distracted. Also she's misfiled a lot of words. So sometimes it'll take her awhile to find that word I wanted, and that's why it suddenly pops up totally irrelevantly when I no longer need it because I've faked my way around her confusion. Not my fault: it's the librarian's. I don't remember where I heard this idea...it sure feels like something Murr came up with.

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    1. Except I can't fake my way around anything. It's all out there like a big Dumbo Flag flapping in the breeze.

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    2. I like this description of how it feels....because it is so kind to us. I was thinking of using it to explain the matter to Young Persons, but then I realized that they don't know what a filing cabinet is.....

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  11. I am entertained by the fact that we can know we know something without being able to think of it. There's that "it's on the tip of my tongue" while it's a universe away, and yet we do know, that we could pull it out somehow and have done so before.

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    1. I also enjoy that our eyes travel in certain directions while trying to come up with the little lost sheep.

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  12. One of my favourite words :) I live vicariously through other's blogs, because you all do things I'd rather not try in case I do myself some damage. Or because it's too cold out, too hot out, too windy rainy, whatever. Let's face it, I'm lazy and much prefer reading about exploits than doing them. I love your Pootie hooded sweatshirt.

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    1. You could buy one. I'd get about $1.85 out of it.

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  13. This really hit home with me. Loved all the comments too, especially Mr Ed's.

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    1. Ed and I go way back. He remembers things about my own life that I don't at all. He's where I keep my filing cabinet.

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  14. And I'm guessing your partner knew exactly what thing you were talking about. At least that is the case here. After so many years, we even know each other's blank spots.

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    1. This is the point of marriage. You need someone who has custody of the ends of your sentences.

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  15. I've been writing Limericks For Out Time (!). They're on my FB page. Anyway, I thought this one was appropriate for this theme:

    "Anyone else’s brain going mushy?"


    My thoughts are like lost in a tomb,
    Warp and weft, but I can’t find the loom
    They’re not sharp and snappy,
    And I’d be so happy
    To remember why I came in this room!

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    1. Betty White had a great rejoinder to Carson when he asked about her fitness program. "Honey," she said, "I live in a two-story house, and with my short-term memory, I'm up and own those stairs ALL the time. That's my fitness program!"

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  16. My brain has gone soft in the core,
    I can't locate my thoughts anymore,
    I've gone long in the tooth
    But to tell you the truth
    I was pretty much that way before.

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  17. I was Hyper and had an Attention Deficit as a Child and it only worsened with age. Now I'm fairly certain I have NO patience for anything or anyone too slow and the attention span of a 2 year old. I'm not really sure if I ever had a good Memory so it doesn't bother me so much that I definitely don't have one now. I'm strangely okay with the Mental deterioration, it's the Physical deterioration that really gets to me! *LOL*

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