I have a supernatural ability of forgetting and losing things.
When I was in the fifth grade I made it halfway to school in the carpool Mami used to run before I realized that I forgot my book bag at home. Yup, you read that right. I walked out out my childhood home and forgot my back pack filled with notebooks, writing utensils and completed homework in a chair by the front facing window.
Mami looked at me with a mixture of horror, confusion and agitation etched into the wrinkles on her face, “y pa que ibas a la escuela entonces?”
If it’s at all possible to genetically inherit this supernatural ability – I would argue that I got it from Papi. I have countless childhood memories of Papi unintentionally aggravating Mami with his forgetfulness and obliviousness.
Mami was the OCD maniac. She cleaned the house every week, without fail. The floors were always gleaming with the fragrance of purple Mistolin. She never went to sleep with a sink full of dirty dishes as I do sometimes. Everything had a place in her home. And if she found anything not put in its place, it would either get tossed or if it was expensive and meaningful enough, she would hide it – like squirrels do with acorns.
I cannot tell you the number of times she would ask me where my necklace or a pair of earrings was and I would go to retrieve them only to be filled with panic when I realized that the item was nowhere to be found.
There was a quiet relentlessness in her approach. She never cracked a smile or revealed a hint that she already had the requested object in her possession. She would ask again … and again … waiting for me to break down in tears and admit I had lost them or misplaced them. Then she would produce the object of my panic and anxiety in her hand like a genie in a lamp grants wishes and tell me to be more careful about where I put my things.
Her efforts were valiant. She wanted to teach me to be mindful. I don’t know how effective her attempts were though.
My poor husband has been handed the gift of maneuvering my forgetfulness. One of his most aggravated moments came after we had finished crossing the bridge from the Bronx into Queens when I realized I had forgotten my phone at his parent’s house. (This was not the first or second time I had forgotten my phone some place while out with him.) We then proceeded to pay the toll two more times in order to retrieve my phone.
At this stage in my life, I would say the number of times I’ve forgotten my phone is now creeping into the triple digits. I’ve also forgotten sunglasses, books, my wallet/ID, keys and in a handful of instances my entire handbag/book bag. It’s gotten to the point where my family usually asks me if I have everything before I leave their house – and I’ll automatically answer yes and still manage to forget something. I am currently on my fifth or sixth water jug in the last two years.
Papi has had talks with me. He has empathized and said he understands my struggle. He has also shared that he has had to learn to adapt strategies to counteract his supernatural ability of forgetfulness.
So in the past two years, I’ve tried to adopt a check before I leave any location. Operation “phone-wallet-keys” originally was a hard fail because I would say the words without actually checking for the items. I would rush through the strategy out loud as if for show, “Phone-wallet-keys CHECK” only to discover upon arriving at my destination that I’d forgotten one or more of the three necessities.
No one has to get mad or annoyed with me anymore. In fact, most people have gotten accustomed to my forgetfulness. Nowadays, I get mad or annoyed with myself. It doesn’t feel good to not have something you need or be missing something you want and have no one to blame but yourself.
I went to the beach on my own this summer and forgot a towel.
A. Towel. For. The. Beach.
My forgetfulness knows no limits.
This week I lost a book that I was reading. I was three-quarters of the way through aka right in the middle of the juiciest part of Isabel Allende’s “City of the Beasts” when I looked for it in my handbag on the R train and realized it was missing. Vanished into thin air. And I had no recollection of where I might have left it.
There is the tiniest possibility that a pickpocket got a hold of it in an attempt to take my wallet. I doubt it though.
You might be wondering why I am writing in such depth about my supernatural ability of forgetfulness? Well …
- It’s my blog so I can write about whatever I want. HA
- Much more serious. I think it’s indicative of a bigger problem.
My supernatural ability of forgetfulness stems from a much deeper problem – my difficulty practicing mindfulness. I often get swept away by the thoughts in my head or my plans for the near and distant future.
Kenia Nunez defines and describes the importance of mindfulness in her new self-help book for young girls “SAVVY GEMS: A Girl’s Guide to Choosing Happiness.”
“Mindfulness is being fully aware of the present moment. It’s peacefully acknowledging what’s happening within AND outside of you (your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations), and accepting them without judgment. The practice of mindfulness is an important element to your overall wellness, one that you will be using for the rest of your life. When we are stuck in thinking about our past, or worried about the future – we are not being present. When we don’t live in the present moment we miss out on appreciating the things (and people) that are right in front of us.”
I need to work on living in the present. It is as superficial as looking back after standing up to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything else. It’s also as significant as focusing on my breath and noticing the way it shifts with my emotions, spending more time in nature and scheduling mental health days proactively as opposed to reactively.
Living in the present means putting my phone away when out to dinner with loved ones or even when having dinner by myself. It means being aware of my surroundings and making note of the details. It means playing a game without always having a show on in the background, or watching a show without feeling the need to multitask.
It means focusing on one thing at a time a little more often. It means not being so readily accessible to work and strangers via e-mail and social media. It also means not being available to friends and family when I’m in need of alone time.
So that’s what I’m working on – being more mindful and more present. Little by little. Day by day.
I’m hoping one of the side effects of practicing mindfulness will be losing and forgetting things less. I guess we’ll see how that goes.
***This is essay 25 in the #52essays2017 challenge created by Vanessa Mártir.