Thursday, June 4, 2015

Losing My Mind? No, just a little stress...

On Sunday I lost my keys. On Monday I realized my wallet went missing. It was very distressing, but it wasn’t the first time I’d been through this, so I did what I do. I began searching. Not only the likely places, but the unlikely places. Because that’s what I do. And when I find something I’ve misplaced, I always say the same thing, “Gee, how come I always find things in the last place I look?” That’s supposed to be funny. But at that moment I am feeling supreme relief. This time, what I also realized was that stress had led to me losing these items in the first place. 

As a retired guy, I don’t feel a lot of stress lately. And I don’t misplace my keys and wallet that often. Over the years, I’ve trained myself pretty well to leave my keys on a hook in the coat closet and my wallet either in the rear pants pocket of the pants I’m wearing or on a surface in the bedroom—my dresser or the end table where I charge my phone. 

But on Sunday, I was stressed because I was getting ready for a party and had the lawn to mow, errands to run, and food to prepare. Everything went fine, though I realized shortly after returning from the grocery store that I’d misplaced my keys because I wanted to move my wife’s car into the garage to make more room for guests. I borrowed her keys rather than waste time looking thoroughly. The party went fine, but on Monday I realized that my wallet was also missing, and as I started my search, I was feeling stress. Had I left my wallet at the grocery store? We had a trip coming up Thursday. Would I have to cancel credit cards? What a hassle. I went to the market and asked about lost and found wallets. No luck.

After the fifth or sixth time looking in, under, and around every piece of furniture, the car, my drawers full of clothes and the hamper, going through the trash (I only did that once), I decided I had to let it go. Either they would turn up or they wouldn’t. So far, no new charges on the charge cards, so I would not cancel or put holds on them. 

On Tuesday, I was in the basement (yes I’d looked around in the basement and garage, too), and decided to check the pants I keep hanging on a hook to wear when I mow the lawn. I’d checked them earlier, but must have been in a hurry or it was when I was just looking for my keys, so had kind of squeezed or jiggled them but not checked the back pocket. The wallet. What a relief. Keys are much easier to replace than a wallet. Why I put my wallet in my work pants I’ve decided has to do with stress: because my mind was so occupied with the list of things I had to accomplish in little time, automatic habits like putting a wallet in my back pocket occurred without conscious thought. 

On Wednesday, I found my keys hanging on a hook. But not the hook in the coat closet. It was a hook on a coat tree in the corner where I hang a couple hats and the portable earphone radio I sometimes wear when I ride my bike. Reconstructing my day Sunday, I vaguely recalled finding the radio sitting out somewhere, grabbing them as I put down bags of groceries, and putting them on the hook under the hats. Unfortunately, the keys were also in my hand, and with my mind occupied with the next tasks on my list and the time I had left, I must have slipped the keys onto that hook where they would stay perfectly hidden by the hats for two days. Luckily, on Tuesday when I went to get my radio, I found the keys, or they might have stayed there unnoticed until I had reason to move two hats that were hanging on the same hook!

Of course, being retired (and married, so backup keys and money were available) the stress of losing a wallet and keys is very small stuff. But I’m always amazed at the truth of the old adage, “I learn something new every day.” I don’t know whether I’ll act on it, but I intend to, when stressed, pay extra special attention to some of those little things that could later cause more anxiety and wasted time. And no, I’m not going to the doctor and asking for an alzheimer’s test.