MY BRAIN IS UNRAVELING AND IT SUCKS
The research is clear, sometime around the age of 45 our brains unravel, and unfortunately our cognitive abilities start to decline. I don’t know about you but this freaks me out. We (baby boomers) are now struggling to find our wallets, keys, sunglasses, remember names, passwords, and connect new information to past experiences.
Larry and I have this conversation all the time, “Honey, do we know those people, they’re staring at us?” Me, “Oh shit, I have no idea, but I think they’re coming over.” Trying to control his impatience, “I think it’s Bob or Brian? Honey, a little help here?” Me, “I have to take this call, I’ll be right back.” It is annoying when my brain has this catastrophic power surge because I’m trying to remember a name, my ability to function shuts down, and the real bitch is my post-menopausal body thermometer kicks up the heat. A triple whammy, when this happens I think it is best to walk away, and claim a much anticipated incoming call. This is what my kids do when I need the dishwasher emptied or the garbage taken out. I remember my mom complaining about my dad not wanting to go to the Methadiners Club once a month (not that I blame him) but I’m beginning to believe it wasn’t the fear of spending an evening singing gospel hymns but the horror of socializing. He also avoided the Elks Club Monday night social with $2 cocktails so I believe my point is more than justified.
My brain is clearly aging, but the piece that is still functioning recognizes this phenomenon and is now mourning my youth. I plan on wearing black for the rest of my life (plus its slimming). But not all is lost dear friends, there is some positive research on the horizon. According to some really smart people, who still have functioning brain matter, we can reverse the damage of aging with creativity. Are you kidding?
This is the most exciting discovery since the Keurig. You have heard of the 10,000 hour project? I hadn’t either, but I stumbled upon this research from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers. Gladwell claims that any given skill takes ten thousand hours to master (approximately 8 years). I’m not sure I’ll last another 10,000 hours but that is the magic number. So given this new information I have expertise in credit card swiping, watching Star Trek, and making hard-boiled eggs. There might be a few more but I can’t remember?
I suppose I eat, pray, and love expertly too but I didn’t want to rain on Elizabeth Gilbert’s parade. Now the importance of this research is pretty astounding. We can change our brain function by learning something new and practicing it consistently. Like the group of really old volunteers who took up juggling in the name of research, when the scientist compared the before and after brain scans, they were blown away. The healthy brain matter increased significantly! So it is possible for all of us to continue attending the Methadiners monthly social with confidence.
There is also really good news in the area of self-awareness. Seth Godin says, “We are a big chemistry experiment.” Godin explains that we don’t actually tell our brains to pick up a pencil, he says it is more of a play by play, where we announce what we are doing as we are doing it. So the good news is, if I learn to recognize the dialogue running through my brain, I can teach myself to make intentional behavioral changes (i.e. replacing old patterns with new ones). For example, when Larry loses his wallet, blames me, and thinks it will spontaneously appear if he turns on the game (I can hear him laughing, but now I know,he knows that I know). When we give into our fearful thoughts we limit our ability to live fully. Godin explains as we train ourselves not to react to the triggers that make us angry or stressed our brains actually becomes calmer and more peaceful. It’s never too late. We can learn to be the person we always wanted to be.
I believe everyone’s experience is valid, and according to Brene Brown this is our most powerful tool for connection, which leads to happiness and well-being. So there you have it. I’m going to practice kindness, learn how to train a bonsai tree, stop hiding behind my fears, surround myself with good people, and day by day become a new and better version of my old self.
How’s the aging process going for you? If you can remember, leave your thoughts in the comments.
Originally posted on the blog Living In The Gap
Photo by the artist Triff on shutterstock.com