in Aging/

My (Cognitive) Decline

It may just be your average “age associated memory loss” I’m experiencing, the one most people in the mid 60’s undergo. But I have to tell you, it’s alarming when someone younger is trying to tell you something that is a NLO (New Learning Opportunity, allegedly good for the neuronal net) and you can’t really follow. In the last few years, it has become increasingly difficult for me to learn new things. I swear I can feel the brain creak, struggling to function as it gets slower and slower with each passing year.

This has become front and center as I’ve been learning a simple software entry system recently. It has been difficult. While I have always been a big picture person, a concept thinker and analytical by nature, I’ve still been able to draw on details as they fit into the whole, usually rapidly. This ability seems to be waning. It’s seems the mental highway that should help me follow what a somewhat younger person is explaining to me, constantly hits potholes. There is a molasses-slow quality in my ability to focus, to follow and process the information. I find myself sometimes straining, pushing my brain to work! This is beyond not remembering something. It’s more a failure or sluggishness required to connect the dots.

Our Lady of Perpetual Confusion

In other situations involving disparate information I just feel confused, disoriented as if I can’t quite reach my heretofore relevant mental anchor. I have to ‘work hard’ to find it, forcing it almost. Occasionally, I’ll be driving–driving–through an intersection only to wonder a block past it, was that light green? Did I just go through an intersection?

Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I don’t feel like I’m too compromised cognitively speaking. But the times when I do feel something is off, it feels way further OFF than ever before and occurs with greater frequency. This all could be cognitive decline that is age-associated and a normal part of the aging process. It could be something worse such as Alzheimer’s or dementia of some kind.

I’m not particularly afraid of Alzheimer’s, at least not for myself. My mother had it and I learned not just a lot about the disease itself but about how it affects others in one’s personal orbit. I remember mom going through the most emotional and psychological pain when she was aware she was losing her mental faculties. Once they were really gone, it didn’t seem to matter. She didn’t seem to even know she was supposed to HAVE mental faculties. But in the early stages there was a period where she seemed aware she was losing functioning she obviously had relied on her entire life. It’s that state I fear.

The State of No Mind

I wouldn’t care about not remembering names, mine or anyone else’s. I wouldn’t care about losing my mind later on. After all, the Zen goal is to reach the state of  ‘no mind.’ It would be fine with me, sort of a quick escalation ascending the map of consciousness. I have heard recently being in the body is not even our natural state; Not being in the body is. Isn’t that what heaven’s all about after all? Yet, while that is a comfort to me–a great comfort–I have still associated this lifetime with my arms, legs, heart, and mind, i.e. intellect which allows me to function. Even knowing the intellect is overrated and certainly to be transcended, it is still what I’ve been attached to–to the package with my name on the toe tag.

What I worry about is KNOWING I’m losing my mind, the process of awareness that information bits, data points in today’s vernacular, both large and small, are slipping away, when you can’t really rely on yourself to function like you once did; you know at least that much to be true. The organ you’ve identified so heavily with as some idea of ‘you’ has become something you can lose. Then what?

But Shouldn’t I know Better?

I know there’s an etheric brain, etheric body that is home to the soul, the spirit that is the real me. After all, decades ago I had an out-of-body experience. I know with certainty I’m that, that being that looked down on my body and made a decision to go back into it. Oddly, the experience was one of practicality, that there was something left to do, or it wasn’t time, or whatever. It was not emotional nor even an attachment. It was more an understanding. The body was a temporary conveyance for matriculation at Earth School, or as some would call it, Purgatory, offering a chance to undo negative karma and earn the positive, to expand in consciousness building on itself like correcting mistakes when learning fractions in fourth grade, allowing one to go on to more sophisticated math problems. It was a simple experiential learning device that informed me of the ‘what’ of me and not the ‘who.’

So here I’ve been: Earth School class of XXXX. If some dementia is in it’s infancy in my increasingly addled brain, it’s hard not to feel sad about drifting away from people I have loved, my son first and foremost, and other family members as well. They will not understand it’s okay, and in the early stages it’s not really okay with me either. Family (and a few friends)  will suffer, believing instead in a perceived loss of mind and persona that is overvalued at best.

For my part, I will not have the same sense of I-ness in human terms to communicate in the language we’ve always spoken. I will be ‘cut off’ from them and they from ‘me,’ or so it will seem. Except for Love, that is. The language of Love will carry all ‘speakers’ through the transition. It’s just the perceptions and personal belief systems that will mask it, that muck it up.

How Lovely If I’m Wrong

In most all ways, I hope I’m wrong about the kind of cognitive decline I seem to be experiencing, that it’s just common age-associated decline. After all, I am able to write this piece. Truth be told however, even writing gets harder and harder, words sometimes get scrambled in a sentence, nouns and verbs reversed, and I have to go back and correct them. It is not about mere typing. I notice thoughts scramble just thinking them sometimes.

Maybe I’m just being hysterical about this decline. Maybe it’s a false alarm, that I’m dramatizing as is my habit, to keep life more interesting, satisfying the ego’s craving for drama, exceptionalism, specialness. Or maybe it’s temporary insanity. Any of these other reasons look kind of attractive in comparison to Alzheimer’s. But maybe not. Even if my screwy molasses slowness is in some sort of normal decline, slowness is occurring. Younger people cannot know this until they experience it themselves, anymore than I could when I was younger and sharp! While I was keenly observant of this decline in my mother, no way did I know what it felt like.

Regardless of however it all plays out, I am aware of the real part of me, that ‘me’ that continues on in some ethereal form, whatever the name. The out-of-body experience informs me of that. And there’s this: according to the first law of thermodynamics, the total amount of energy in a closed system cannot be created nor destroyed (though it can be changed from one form to another.) God made the system closed albeit an infinite one that is ever expanding. While seemingly contradictory, it’s really not. Being made in His image, we are part and parcel to the whole shebang that continues on, everlasting. 


11 replies
  1. Bob Rubin
    Bob Rubin says:

    I am losing my mind and I am not going to miss it. I would give this attribution but I Googled it and could not find the author. It was buried in my alleged mind several years ago and surfaced on reading your memoir. Hope what you and I have is the routine age related decline of our declining but enriching years.

    H. Robert Rubin, author of “Look Backward Angel”, my e-memoirs available on Amazon.

    • Rosalie
      Rosalie says:

      I think we’re both in the “normal” memory loss range, Bob. And I won’t miss mine either once it’s completely gone, even if I”m wrong.

  2. Ann Heuton
    Ann Heuton says:

    How well you’ve written about a difficult subject. I, too, think of what “ethereal
    form” lies ahead. When my daughter Mary died, the woman minister wished
    her well in her “new expression”. I like that thought.

  3. Roxanne I Moermond
    Roxanne I Moermond says:

    Very well written, Rosalie. I can so relate to most of it. I try not to let those things bother me too much but some inevitably do. I do so admire those who suffer such decline and seem to handle it so well. I see it every day. You do have quite a way to go yet I think.

    • Rosalie
      Rosalie says:

      Thanks, Roxanne. I actually think my decline is more “normal” but it remains sobering relative to how I used to function. So it goes.

  4. Taylor
    Taylor says:

    Ha! I really like the thoughtfulness you have shared in this piece. I a few years your younger, am constantly transposing words, disorganizing thought and ideas, reading something going “I get it” and then “Did I?” and I won’t go into any traffic lights, If it’s clear and everyone is safe then it must have been green!


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