Missing keys. Happens all the time, right? You’re ready to walk out the door, pumped and primed for the day. Your keys? Apparently they’ve wandered off on their own. Gone. AWOL! Coulda swore they were right. . .here, where you always keep them on the kitchen counter. Or could they be there? Next to the cookbooks? Under the newspaper? Mixed up with the mail, hiding in plain sight?
Darn, the brain is a tricky thing. Just when you think you’re in control, you lose it.
In desperate search, and already late for work, you dash from room to room, retracing your steps, recalling the last time you had your keys in hand. Yes, just yesterday, you found your way home, and yes, you were driving. And yes, you were in full possession of your wits as you opened the door, walked into the kitchen, and parked your keys. . . if not here on the counter where they “belong,” then where?
What follows is an assaut on all the “other” usual places: bedroom dresser, bathroom vanity, desk top. Mystified! How do keys just vanish? As the adrenaline kicks in to a new level of energy, you dump your handbag, overturn drawers, throw pillows off the couch, check pockets, ransack places you absolutely KNOW can’t be right. Wastebaskets, garbage cans?
Last resort -- and not a pretty one -- you call your husband at work, sheepishly confess that you’re grounded at home like a 15-year old, until you find the keys to your automobile, and by the way, could he please tell you where he keeps his spare key - because sure-as-hell you don’t remember where you keep yours? Calmly he tells you a.) that your keys are somewhere in the house (duh) and b.) there’s a spare set of keys stowed safely in his closet -- look in the right shoe of his Tommy Bahama topsiders-- wow, who’d ever guess.
Days pass. Still missing keys, you find yourself cycling through the stages of loss: (why me, why my keys). Denial, anger and bargaining have turned to rumaging, trashing and cleaning. Tearing through closets and cupboards. “Be the keys,” you tell yourself. “Now think! Where would you be if you were metal and plastic and attached to a $200 Infiniti fob with a battery and why can’t you just ring like my cell phone?”
Then comes zenlike acceptance of all things possible. Your keys are somewhere buried in a landfill, having been collected with the garbage on Wednesday. Your keys have been stolen. Call a locksmith. You live with a gremlin. Look in the refrigerator.
The week goes by. Beyond lost, beyond displaced, beyond all plausible means of mental detection, the keys actually do show up. In the refrigerator. Of all places, beneath a sodden plastic bag of browning lettuce in the crisper drawer.
So this is how it starts, you think: a first sign of dementia. You know you're in trouble, when you find your keys in the fridge. But then, mercifully you recall, there is a logical explanation for this bizarre turn. The keys were where you thought you left them in the first place - sitting in their usual spot on the kitchen counter, minding their own business, when inadvertently they were covered up as you took items out of the fridge to make a salad. Then among the leafy plastic bags of spinach and romaine, cucumber and tomato, the keys were gathered up and tossed into the refrigerator . . . randomly displaced, in much the same way socks get lost in a dryer.
So! As brains go, mine isn’t quite the sieve -- but something of a colander where lettuce can be rinsed and drained. According to scientists, the downsized “middle aged” brain goes into overload, teeming with everything we know and experience in our rich lives. And once we hit 60? Studies show that we get distracted at remarkable speed - within 200 milliseconds. In other words, our interior selves live in a perpetually juiced state of incoming impressions and detours. The good news? We compensate by absorbing more facts than people in their teens and 20’s. And when put to the test, we’re 30% better at using the info later to solve problems, make decisions, and deploy our natural creativity.
Lessons learned: Simplify. Keep fewer items on your kitchen counter. Avoid making salad where you keep your car keys. Check bags before stowing into fridge. And chill.
More food for a thoughtful brain: nuts! (of course), fish (rich in omega-3 fatty acids) soybeans, tomatoes (a source of antioxidants in lycopene, good for the immune system), olive oil, flaxseed and avocados, (all heart-healthy fats) and best brain-candy of all - real dark chocolate (a dopamine-releaser and good for the soul, too).