Slide background

Cobalt Blue: A Novel

A novel for courageous readers and seekers, COBALT BLUE is a turbulent, gorgeous ride into sacred sex..

Order Now

Emails to my Therapist

Does Worrying About Being Forgetful Make Forgetfulness Worse?

Dear Nicholas, I’ve been a bit more forgetful in recent months. Only about very small things, but I don’t like it AT ALL. Makes me feel I’m in a leaky boat.

I’m guessing that paying attention to each little memory lapse or hesitation can only make forgetfulness worse.

Normal Does Not Equal Good

A sixty-something friend reassured me that my minor forgettings were normal (for my seventy-something age.) I didn’t find that reassuring. The fact that something is normal or “natural” does not mean it’s good. Death, for example, is a normal natural event that I would not welcome.

I’ve written about forgetfulness before, as far back as 2019, I now see. At that time I was looking for ways to sharpen memory. Didn’t realize it had been on my mind that long.

The fact that I am now on alert for any small forgetting is probably making it happen more often. The fact that the things I forget are quite unimportant and forgettable is no reassurance either. And they really are small.

Ridiculously Small

In recent months, I’ve forgotten names of actors: Frank Langella and Frances McDormand two times each. Also forgot autistic writer and scientist Temple Grandin’s name twice. Probably the second time in each case occurred because I was testing myself.  Several times lately I’ve seen a picture of some famous person, felt a twinge of alarm, and heard myself think: will I remember the name?

This testing and tension and counting of instances is not helping to sharpen my memory. But I can’t seem to stop myself.

“It starts with an R”

In the last few days, I’ve twice hesitated over a word. Paused trying to think of the word “sauce” to follow “caramel”at the frozen yogurt shop. Couldn’t come up with the word”ricotta” for an hour after leaving the grocery; I kept telling myself that it’s that powdery white cheese and it starts with an “r.”

Of course, I’m blaming myself for this slippage. No doubt I’ve caused it by eating processed food, way too much frozen yogurt, for example.  Or some other health sin.


One could argue that I don’t need to know the names of actors, that I’m griping about something that amounts to nothing. But I don’t like any movement in the forgetting direction. It makes me feel ever-so-slightly diminished. And I don’t like that I’m probably making it worse by paying attention to it. But I don’t know how to stop. I’ve never had much luck at controlling my thoughts.

If I were dealing with real trouble, I would no doubt be distracted. But that’s no solution. So I’m seeking a strategy that doesn’t involve trying to convince myself that these little gaps and hesitations don’t matter. I want to forget about my forgetting so I’ll forget less often.

Strategy, Please

Just now, this very instant, a thought of a possibility, a variation of a method I’ve used to stop other unwanted thoughts. See “How I’ve Cut Back on Beating Up on Myself”. Since I have a tendency to count, I could count the number of times I berate myself over forgetting, rather than the number and nature of the times I forget. Sounds complicated, circuitous and not promising, but such counting did work well once before.




Follow This Blog


Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  • Anne
    August 8, 2022 at 7:08 pm Reply

    I can totally relate. I pretend it is something fun to do! Yay! Forgot again! I pretend it was replaced by something more important and by the time I am thinking of something else, I remember what I forgot.

    • Peggy Payne
      August 8, 2022 at 7:22 pm Reply

      What an interesting original approach, Anne! Pretend it’s fun–I don’t know if I can do it, but I like the idea.

  • Gail Chesdon
    August 8, 2022 at 7:12 pm Reply

    New normal? Hitting 76 has left me with many questions. One of those is —will I know I don’t know? Will I remember and not know I forgot? Sheesh. Mostly I give myself time when I forget and sooner or later the answer pops up. It’s not what I want, but it’s what I am. Can I love my new normal? I’m going to try because it’s me now and now is all I have.

    • Peggy Payne
      August 8, 2022 at 7:20 pm Reply

      I wish I could be so philosophical, Gail.

  • August 8, 2022 at 7:16 pm Reply

    I’m sorry you’re troubled by counting forgetfullnesses – I’d suggest counting the things you’re remembering, cz what you focus on tends to happen more frequently. And if you want to be more anxious in order to interfere more with remembering, keep noticing and counting every instance of forgetting.
    Another strategy could be to count something else positive, like the pleasures and/or warm friends you have contact with in a day. You may tire of counting all these good things, so you could change categories to counting whatever good’s happened today. Not listening to or reading any network news developments might also help. As might using each forgetfullness to trigger intentional, conscious deeper, slower breathing ,and letting that continue a while.
    So I don’t know how you’ll Remember good things, or when you’ll Remember good things, or how frequently you’ll Remember good things, or even if you will Remember to notice good feelings and experiences. You can let me know. bob

    • Peggy Payne
      August 8, 2022 at 7:19 pm Reply

      I love the closing refrain, Bob. And the breathing idea.

  • kenju
    August 8, 2022 at 9:26 pm Reply

    You and Bob are right: focusing on the fact that you are forgetting does make it happen more often – at least in my experience. Just wait until you are nearly 82. I can’t remember the name of soooo many actors these days, so I keep my phone handy, and I goodle the name of the movie/cast. See it as an opportunity to learn something new (and remember something old.)

    • Peggy Payne
      August 8, 2022 at 9:38 pm Reply

      You too frame the forgetting in a positive way. Impressive. It’s a transformation I haven’t yet learned.

  • kenju
    August 8, 2022 at 9:27 pm Reply

    Sorry – I google it, of course. A typo, not a forgetting….lol

    • Peggy Payne
      August 8, 2022 at 9:40 pm Reply

      I kinda like goodle, kenju. I think I’ll do some goodling myself. (though spellcheck doesn’t like it)

  • George Wingate
    August 8, 2022 at 9:56 pm Reply

    I am making an art imagery which puts the important word(s) in aesthetic form. I’ll show you soon.

    • Peggy Payne
      August 8, 2022 at 9:57 pm Reply

      Wonderful, George! I look forward to it. And I’m curious about what the important words are.

  • Alice Sawa
    August 8, 2022 at 10:57 pm Reply

    I am not a sweet old lady….when I have brain fog I get really angry !I realize that is part of the aging process but it is hard to accept. I fight with myself when I can not remember the correct the correct word that I need,I try to hide my confusion which makes it even worse.I am ANGRY !!!!!!!

    • Peggy Payne
      August 9, 2022 at 12:00 am Reply

      I sure don’t blame you, Alice! In fact, though I hadn’t thought of myself as angry about this, my husband Bob says that I seem angry about it. And why wouldn’t we be?

  • Kenju
    August 9, 2022 at 1:22 am Reply

    I have so many reasons to be angry about my life that this seems trivial by comparison. I watched it happen to my great-grandparents, my grand-parents and my parents. Why wouldn’t I expect it to happen to me ??

    • Peggy Payne
      August 9, 2022 at 2:07 am Reply

      I’m sorry about those reasons, Kenju. I’m impressed you knew your great-grandparents.

  • Alice Sawa
    August 9, 2022 at 1:27 am Reply

    And so it is making me Angry is that I repeat my self in my last opinion…….sorry.

    • Peggy Payne
      August 9, 2022 at 2:04 am Reply

      Not a problem, Alice. I definitely got what you meant!

  • Roeber Braxton
    August 9, 2022 at 4:55 pm Reply

    circa 1950 country music “I forgot more than you’ll ever know about Her” – mine on the brink of 78 – you forgot more than I’ll ever know about names of actors – pop culture is my weak suit as I imagine being on Jeopardy!

    • Peggy Payne
      August 9, 2022 at 7:46 pm Reply

      I hate to admit that popular culture is one of my strong suits, Bob. But I could not manage Jeopardy. For one thing, I think I’d forget the peculiar way they require you to word answers.

  • Robert Braxton
    August 9, 2022 at 7:54 pm Reply

    son – last Septermber turned age 50 – has his own son Understudy – daughter, too:

    • Peggy Payne
      August 9, 2022 at 8:00 pm Reply

      Yes, the next generation has ceased to be young. I remember my mother asking me to consider how it felt to have a child old enough for Medicare.

  • Lee Grohse
    August 10, 2022 at 10:37 am Reply

    Ah, yes, a truly annoying part of aging. For a while I fretted over who I’d be now, since my razor sharp memory had been a huge part of how I defined myself. Seem to have mostly gotten past that. I did find a little mind game that might be fun for you. I notice and try to figure out what is, or was, going on up there. Example: why am I driving myself crazy playing that John Denver song over and over in my head? Aha! Because earlier I was trying unsuccessfully to recall the name of Jacques Cousteau’s boat. Why did I call George, whom I’ve known forever, Edward? Aha, temporary scramble of the British Kings folder where that one must be filed. I can hear Bob’s trance voice when I read his comment..

    • Peggy Payne
      August 10, 2022 at 1:06 pm Reply

      I too heard his trance voice, Lee. Very distinct. And helpful. And so is your suggestion helpful. I like this game. Thanks.

  • August 11, 2022 at 4:28 pm Reply

    Peggy, your message and the comments of others were very comforting to me, as I too am dealing with the shock of realizing words and names I’ve known for-ev-er are hidden from view when they should be rolling off my tongue. What I do when I ultimately find the word or name is to repeat it mentally, associate it with a visual, and say to myself sternly, “I am not going to forget this word again.” It’s like I’m imprinting it on my brain.

    • Peggy Payne
      August 11, 2022 at 4:32 pm Reply

      It sure is good to have company in dealing with these things, Pat. Thanks for your comment. Given that celebrities seem to be my memory weakness, I’ll have an odd collection names imprinted on my brain: most recently, Katie Holmes and John Travolta.

    • August 11, 2022 at 5:40 pm Reply

      it may work even better to consider saying “I’m going to remember this”. bob

      • Peggy Payne
        August 11, 2022 at 5:57 pm Reply

        Good wording.

  • August 11, 2022 at 4:45 pm Reply

    …and isn’t it maddening when you’re with someone who is struggling for a word or name and it immediately pops out of your mouth? I ask myself, “Why? Why was that so easy when I struggled for 20 minutes trying to remember that ‘r’ word?”

    • Peggy Payne
      August 11, 2022 at 5:22 pm Reply

      I sometimes use the title of the NPR show “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me” if I see someone about to fill in a name I’ve forgotten. It’s like a spoiler of a book or movie if someone blurts it out to me. But it can be almost impossible to resist.

Leave a Comment


Follow This Blog