Attention-Span Waning

A few years ago I noticed that grandma’s attention span narrowed when after a holiday dinner and a game or two, she was ready to go home to get into her nightgown and “relax.”  Gone were the hours spent in conversation, lingering at the table, after dinner.

I’m getting grandma more and more as the years pass.

Don’t make me go to a movie, the theater or any other extended, confined, indoor event where I can’t wander off if so inclined.

Speaking of wandering off.  My daughter and I went shopping together a while back – a rare event, the last few years.  We had a great time.  I bought random things that I sort of needed for a long time but the occasion hadn’t presented just the right items in my path, like this time.  We laughed that, for us, we were buying a ridiculous amount of random stuff (gotta love Ross!).

She said, a couple of times that while she was browsing (something I’m not great at, preferring the more pointedly targeted, get-what’s-on-the-list kind of shopping), “I turned around to say something to you and you had wandered off.”  She giggled and so did I.  It was true.

You see – I knew this.  It’s not like Alzheimer’s or dementia.  I knew full-well that I had wandered away.  It was because I lost interest in our relatively stationary position.

I needed “something else” to see.  I needed to move on to the “next.”

My “problem” is being still.  I get restless.  Maybe I’ve reverted to three-year-old parallel play behaviors.  I was engaged with my daughter in shopping, enjoying our time together but I had to broaden my scope of browsing compared to her more prolonged focus.

I enjoyed our time “together” enormously, but needed moments of separation to give the togetherness meaning, I guess.

I love the pause button.  I don’t like to be forced to sit still for long.  I need to get up frequently to divert my attention – to spread it around.

I like to be alone from time to time – on a daily basis.  I like quiet with solitude, regularly.  But stillness – not so much; it has a time limit until I get antsy.

Maybe that’s why I prefer books with lots of subheadings, and/or short chapters (I could easily read War and Peace if it followed this requirement).  I need to get up frequently to stretch my legs, get a snack or drink, maybe answer an email or do some business, wash dishes or do laundry before coming back to it (without losing the continuity of thought).

After a meal I like to get up, for instance, to prepare dessert and serve it or refresh drinks, etc. – anything to shake up the monotony that creeps in (it’s not you, it’s me:)).

Games after dinner work for me.  They keep things moving.

Then, I crash.  I, like grandma before me, like to put pj’s on and chill with my own company, ideally in front of the fireplace and a burning candle, to recharge.  Awhhh.

Is a waning attention span yet another aspect of some patterns of aging that nobody ever told us about?  It might be just me.  But, when I saw the miniature pattern of it (myself and grandma), it makes me wonder if it’s universal in at least some aging personalities (maybe the introvert personality)?

Please don’t get all clinical and tell me there’s something wrong with my brain.  I’d much prefer to stick with my usual pattern of thinking and standard psychological defense for anything in my personal behavioral arsenal that I observe and write about: “this is just a variation of normal.”



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