I’m creating a checklist for my brain. Not a shopping list. Not a to-do list. Not a wish list. It is a brain-don’t-fail-me-now-list. Now that I am 60—actually, past 60—my email and snail mail are inundated with what advertisers think is age appropriate merchandise and services. Burial plots. Life insurance that requires no physical! (Just a 20-page health questionnaire.) Local restaurants that offer senior specials starting at 4:30. I swear to God I will never go to a senior special price dinner again. Once, we went to a Lenten fish fry at our church, arriving at 4:30 so that we could eat before spending the evening at dance school. The seniors in line actually told us that this was private time for them, that no children were allowed. I protested, was allowed in, and we spent our dinner feeling the icy stares of someone’s grandparents boring holes in out bodies.
But back to the checklist. None of these emails or ads are offering me what I really need; which is a magic medicine, exercise, activity or lifestyle change that is going to keep my brain limber and sharp. Considering there may be some doubt about my younger brain’s sharpness and limberness, this could be a real challenge.
The name of the game is neural pathways. Roadways cut into a previously untouched landscape, paved with snapping synapses reaching out to gobble up the new information like so many brain-based Pac-Mans. (Pac-Men? Discuss amongst yourselves). So, the hunt is on for the best brain bulldozers to keep turning over that gray matter.
I know there is constant digging in my technology brain field, thanks to one office computer whose browser keeps getting hijacked by fake search engines, a daily what-happened-to-my-email/document/server connection gauntlet, and fun messages from every office software about how new versions are coming out, riding a tidal wave of systems updates and security patches that have to happen first.
Last weekend, I surveyed the dance area of the brainscape, and did some path outlining with foot-shaped stepping-stones in the pattern of a foxtrot. Results of the environmental impact statement (other wise know as assessing the body pain index after dancing) have not yet come in.
While the financial area of my brain resembles strip mining, constant attempts to discover untouched areas of financial management, deposits of, well—deposits—as well as the constant detouring caused by robbing Peter to pay Paul keep the brain road crew busy. In fact, there is actually one over used neural pathway—the living paycheck-to-paycheck pathway that threatens to cut right through the entire brain.
I’m walking, laughing, and being grateful to improve my brain health. I’m avoiding a whole list of OTC meds that may contribute to brain traffic jams. And I am seriously looking to try new things. No skydiving or tattoos (but not completely ruled out). Just more like taking some of those things I’ve been dabbling in or interested in but have not devoted enough time to. Things that Yoda might tell me, “Do, or do not. But just your mind make up.” Or my friend Carol, looking down on me still saying “stop making other people look good.”
My brain is still in pretty good shape. After 60, there is never a guarantee about that. So, time to start using my brain. That’s the first thing on my checklist. The second thing is hinted in the title of this essay.