As a kid, I was quite forgetful. I forgot about important homework assignments, I forgot the birthdays of my dearest friends and I often forgot things around the house.
This trait of mine often got me in trouble, and when it did, I told my teachers, parents and other people I had let down that it was an honest mistake. As I did this, I looked at them wide eyed and my words came from deep within, hoping they would understand. But they didn’t. They wouldn’t accept my earnest plea and I felt helpless. Isn’t forgetfulness a legitimate infirmity?
What appears on the surface as inveterate and incorrigible forgetfulness can be broken down further.
Forgetfulness is foremost a lack of priority. As a kid, I didn’t forget to watch my favourite TV shows or to tune-in to the latest game of cricket even if it happened in the wee hours of the morning. Whatever I had forgotten probably wasn’t important enough for me.
A second reason for forgetfulness is that it mirrors a messy mind. Sure, I know that the keys to the house are important, but I put them in the computer drawer because they felt uncomfortable in my pocket as I was played FIFA-07. Of course, I didn’t register putting them there because I was on the verge of losing an important match! Misplacing things around the house manifests in the mind before happening in the real world.
A third reason for forgetfulness is the lack of systems – a set of habits, routines and rituals – that help us maintain order. The ritual of checking one’s pockets while leaving a vehicle ensures that my wallet isn’t left on the seat. A well maintained calendar organizes appointments. A 20 minute timer ensures that the milk doesn’t boil over. Remembering everything is difficult. Systems make memory automatic rather than deliberate.
The main reason I felt helpless as a forgetful little boy was that I thought being forgetful was an innate quality. That was because I didn’t re-frame forgetfulness in terms of things that were under my control.
Nowadays when I am forget things, I do feel guilty but not helplessness. And thank goodness for that. That way, I can always do something about it.