Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Errors in my ways

Remembering stuff is important. We have so much to do, so much stuff to keep track of, but sometimes things go awry: We forget things, and because of that, we may let important things slip. We may also lose stuff, and then spend too much time looking for what we’ve misplaced. Any of this can happen to any of us at any time. We find ways to cope.

I’ve talked about the system I designed to help keep me from forgetting stuff—what I’m doing, where I put stuff, etc. I needed to do that because remembering stuff is difficult for me. My system has mostly worked—except when it hasn’t. Today, I was again reminded of my system’s imperfection.

Early this morning, I got a text message reminding me of my upcoming dental appointment, something they always do. I was annoyed: My appointment wasn’t until Friday of next week—why were were they sending me a text early Tuesday morning, the week before my appointment?

When I actually read the message later in the morning, I saw that my appointment is tomorrow, not Friday of next week. It’s true that they changed the appointment twice due to planned staff absences, however, I never updated my calendar the second time, and so, I forgot all about the appointment being rescheduled to this week.

A short while later, after breakfast, I discovered the second failure: I went to grab the Tuesday pouch of my prescription medication, only to discover the pouch said “Monday”. I was shocked, angry with myself, disappointed—and deeply confused. How could I have forgotten again?!

I realised that the day I missed actually could have been any one of several days from Saturday through Monday that I forgot to take the medication, but whenever it was, I only noticed today. I’m absolutely certain I took the pills on Friday, and I also know I got up late on Saturday, which is why that’s the prime suspect. Still, I don’t remember anything, really, about my medication rituals between Saturday and today, so I can’t be sure which day it was—and, of course, it doesn’t really matter.

This latest medication failure was caused by the same thing as the other failures over the past couple years: My system technically worked, but my adherence to it didn’t. I didn’t take my medication one day, marked the reminder that I had, then also marked the double-check reminder that I’d done that. This is the biggest flaw in my system: It still depends on me not assuming anything, and always physically checking and double-checking.

The dentist thing is mainly about me needing to do things like updating my calendar immediately: I can’t trust myself to remember to do such things later. Putting things on my calendar isn’t a formal part of my organisation system, but it’s obviously a close relative, and failures can cause me problems.

The fundamental truth that these two incidents reinforce is that all my efforts to remember stuff, and so, stay focused and organised, ultimately depend on me. If I make any slip-up at all, the whole thing collapses. Short of having a minder—a robot or maybe a handsome personal assistant—to manage details for me, there’s very little I can do to fix things (multiple reminders to stop me forgetting stuff would be so annoying that I’d be certain to ignore them as easily as I can ignore two).

With no real alternative, I’ll just have to try harder, and also accept the reality that I can’t count on always getting it right, and sometimes things will go wrong. Or, maybe someday that robot or handsome personal assistant will arrive for duty. I think I’d better not count in that, either.

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