What’s that Word? Battling Brain Fog

September 21, 2021

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My husband was struggling to insert his contact lens. He kept popping it out and trying to put it back in, grumbling about an invisible speck of dust that was making it sit uncomfortably in his eye.

And I wanted to offer assistance.

“Do you need some….”

I paused, forgetting the word.

Sauce,” my brain filled in.

No, not sauce.

I stopped myself before I said it aloud. I know it’s not sauce.

But… what is the word?

“Ointment?” my brain tried next. “Balm? Salve?”

Those didn’t seem right either. I was seeking something decidedly more fluid.

But the word wasn’t fluidly coming to mind.

“Do you need some contact lens…” I tried again, willing the words to come before he turned his squint at the mirror to a bewildered glance at me.

“… Contact lens…. solution?!”

There it is! I had found the solution.

Not sauce. Not ointment.

I would’ve bombed with balm and salve offered no salvation.

The word, obviously, is “solution.”

Phew! Glad I figured that one out!

And yet, I have to wonder why that solution of the word solution was stuck for a solid thirty seconds somewhere in the recesses of my brain, unable to make its way to my mouth.

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I’ve been struggling with words lately and, as a mom, it’s embarrassing. Sometimes my kids make fun of me when I can’t remember their name (I have two children – a boy and a girl – so it shouldn’t be that difficult) or when I blank on that pasta dish I’ve made for dinner (it starts with an L and its name is… …. I know it, it’s right on the tip of my tongue…. …. lasagna! It’s lasagna!)

As a writer, it’s devastating. When the words flow, as they often do, I can write a blog post in a half-hour. When they don’t, I can get stuck on a single word for what seems just as long.

My inability to determine the word I’m trying to say coincides with the increasing incidents of walking purposefully into a room only to completely forget upon arrival what I am doing there.

(Related reference: see “seeking sunglasses whilst atop head” and “desperately searching for iPhone whilst in hand”)

Perhaps it’s because I’ve entered the Age of Old or that extended period of mood swings, night sweats, and – wait – wtf is it called again?

Menorah? Macrame? Monopoly?

(I know it’s “menopause” but you’re not supposed to say it aloud. It’s like Voldemort.)

Or perhaps it’s because it’s been more than 18 months since the start of the pandemic. We were only made to be resilient for so long. We are anxious, we are depressed, we are languishing.

No wonder things seem a little foggy.

If you, too, are struggling with pulling the right word from the recesses of your brain, or calling your dog by your cat’s name (which only works if your cat’s name is “Dog”), or losing your keys or your sanity, know you’re not alone.

There’s no ointment or salve to treat this condition.

There’s just the knowledge that we’re all in this together in a way that can best be described as…

Shit, I forget the word.

Oh, right, camaraderie. There it is.

That’s the secret sauce.

20210507 vghs SPA1236 003 webrez What’s that Word? Battling Brain FogValerie Gordon is a former TV producer, lifelong storyteller, writer, and humorist. She finds something spectacular in the mundane. Check out her other musings on the Commander-in-She blog. Her first book, “Fire Your Narrator! A Storyteller’s Guide to Getting Out of Your Head and Into Your Life” launches Oct. 12th.


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I had the pleasure of joining @emiliearies on the @BossedUpOrg podcast a few months before the publication of "Fire Your Narrator" to talk about the power of our inner stories!

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