About My Goldfish Memory

I will probably forget a month from now that I even wrote this post. I forget what I post about. I forget who has read my books. I forget conversations, dates, people’s names, faces, things I did yesterday, last week, a year ago. Two hours ago. I forget things most people seem to remember. I have the worst memory ever. My friend Zoe calls it Goldfish Memory. You know, you remember things for like 3 seconds and then your memory restarts? Yeah, that’s seriously how I feel all the time. I have to write everything down, but even when I do that I forget important things. Yesterday I was on the phone with my friend Annie and I completely forgot she had read my novel Monarch. The whole conversation I never remembered that last month I had emailed her the ebook so she could read it and be prepared for our live chat Monarch party last month. I even wrote a post on Facebook about something kind she said about the book – about it being like an endless supply of Reese’s peanut butter cups. How could I forget that? Sigh.

Anyway, it’s just sad when I get laughed at for forgetting things (not in a mean way, but still…) – when a situation where I’ve forgotten something makes me look like a complete idiot.

This happens to me at least three times a week. Or more.

Maybe this is why I’m a hermit. I’m afraid to go anywhere in public and interact with people – do anything that will mean I have to remember something or someone. My poor husband. He’s constantly dealing with my absent-mindedness. And it’s not even that I’m preoccupied with anything specific. I’ve been this way my entire life, and quite frankly, it’s embarrassing and awful and lately has become a real problem in my life. I just don’t know what to do. Warn people all the time? Are there herbs that help with this or something? I’ve tried planners, post-it notes, everything. I’m horrible at tests. It’s amazing I got through college with a high GPA.

I just don’t know what to do lately. I’m just saying this out loud in public because I’m afraid people might be offended by anything I forget to do or post or say or whatever. It affects my relationships with people, and that’s the hardest thing of all. I think what might help is getting away from the Internet for awhile and focus more on my writing and some real-life stuff and trying to take things slower and freeing myself of some stress.

Anyone have any advice? Do you know anybody as absent-minded as me? Anything that has helped?

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle


I forget stuff and remember things incorrectly all the time, it's infuriating. I think having something to do that let's you just sit back and think things through is helpful, but then half the time I just zone out without thinking at all. I wish there were a tea for bad memories, I'd drink it all the time.

Liana Brooks

I feel like there are a million facts rattling around my brain. Some things have priority (like remembering how many kids I have and where I need to be in the next 15 minutes) but other things completely slip way. Like when I get an email and someone asks me a question about a book I've never heard of… only to realize it was the novel I finished this summer and they're editing it for me. Once I pulled the memories from my file I was able to have an intelligent conversation, but there was an actual conversation where I asked who wrote the book.. Needless to say, you have my complete sympathy. :o)

Aww, hey, don't feel bad at all. I am the high queen of forgetting REALLY important things until about five minutes before hand (which also makes me high queen of utilizing the last minute). I was a camp counselor for several years, and sometimes a girl I'd worked with would come running up, and I'd be like, "HI HONEY!" and try to hide the fact that I had no idea who that person was. My little brain can only hold onto so much info at a time. I'm with Amanda, if someone finds a memory tea, I wanna know about it.

Beth Overmyer

Hi Michelle :)I'm sorry to hear this 🙁 *hugs* Do you think it could be an actual disorder? I hope someone comes up with a miracle drug for this.*more hugs*

It happens.Does your email program support tasks lists?What type of cell phone do you have?

scott g.f.bailey

I know just what you mean. My head is like a junk drawer, everything rattling around loose in it. I can't remember phone numbers or people's names or addresses. I have all sorts of things I've promised people I'd do (like email you a photo of me holding my copy of Monarch) and I keep forgetting to do them. Is this just because we're all so busy these days, and stress disrupts short- and medium-term memory? I don't know.

Angela Hartley

Do you know that I leave my purse in the shopping cart at least once a month? I don't even know how it happens. I have to meet someone at least three time and word-associate their name or I will never get it right. What you are experiencing is totally normal for a creative personality. I posted a quote from Albert Einstein on Facebook this morning: "Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid." You may not remember, but that's okay. You knock 'em dead in another way! (Teehee, that rhymed 🙂

I'm the same. And it sucks especially because my boyfriend remembers everything. There's just SO much to remember, definitely as writers. And then stressing does cause memory to deteriorate.

Cynthia Lee

I have a pretty crappy memory as well. I'm also ADHD due to a metabolic disorder I've suffered from my whole life. I'll start doing something, switch to something else on impulse and forget what I was doing originally. Sometimes I do this several times a day. I have to be on an inflexible routine or I can't remember to do anything. So I kinda know how you feel.

Charlie Rice

I guess you forgot about the $5,000 you borrowed. I'm the same way, although my memory used to be sharp. (I remember my memory being sharp!) Now, not so much.I used to goof on the old folks, now the kids goof on me. I used to have a good memory, now I don't. My memory used to be sharp, now I can't remember what I was thinking ten seconds ago.Btw, where's the $5,000 I loaned you?

My memory gets worse all the time, but then I am forty! I seem to be able to remember about 90% of what I need to. It's the other 10% that kills me. Hang in there!

Jake Henegan

If I had to guess, I'd say the problem lies in the encoding phase. (Memory works in three phases, encoding, storage and retrieval) Ergo, you didn't forget, you just never coded the memory properly.Therefore, the problem lies at the point where the memory is obtained. i.e. you're not invested enough in what is being coded, or you're not paying enough attention.Some people remember better by writing things down (not to review later, but the very act of writing focuses your mind better so that you can remember). Others use visual images that they connect to things in order to remember (i.e. if someone wanted to remember the name of your book, they would visualise a monarch butterfly and make a link with your book in order to do so). I think if you make a specific point of focusing on things in order to remember, it'll help. Maybe.Also, I have a suspicion that fish oil supplements help for memory. I'm not sure about that though.I myself have an excellent memory for unimportant things. I can remember a line someone in a movie I saw ten years ago said, but if I'm asked to put off a light, I forget after twenty seconds.Sorry for the overly long comment. (Also, it is only a wild and un-researched guess.)

Jacqueline Howett

Rosemary herb in food, or as a tea is suppose to be good for memory.Now why do I keep forgetting it on my list? Oh yes- I saw it- but it was expensive. But maybe its worth the expense-eh? Next time I go shopping-then.Fish oil sends a clean blood flow to the brain but you need to take at least one 3 times a day to feel the benefit. Mine are still in the fridge door. This is what I will do next then, if I don't get distracted meanwhile.Lucky I have salmon tonight, thats loaded with that good omega -3 You might also be anemic. Eat plenty of food loaded with iron like spinach and lentils. I think internet is the biggy. But really, I wouldn't worry about it. Try a crossword once in a while they say.Also excercise, even if its just walking around the block or to the corner will send blood to the brain, giving oxygen where needed and also helps the lungs. Dumb bell strengh training 5 to 20 minutes every other day is cool too.I always enjoy reading your blogs whenever I am around. I've cut back being online, knowing its okay to just be online now, whenever I just feel like it. Every now and then is still very cool. A certain pressure and the stress I noticed with that thinking has left me.

Sarah Pearson

I've never had a great memory but in the past few years it's become progressively worse. I can no longer remember the plots of books or movies – or even whether I've seen or read them at all, sometimes. I forget the words for things in the middle of conversations. If I don't write something down, it's gone. The Doctor tells me it's old age, and will get worse. I'm 41.

Michael Offutt

You seem so natural in public that I can't imagine you actually being uncomfortable. How strange. You hide your insecurities very well. I'd have thought you were a professional speaker/debater.

Janet Johnson

I always hate it when I forget stuff. People especially because I feel bad that I might have made someone else feel bad. *sigh*I actually appreciate when someone asks for forgiveness in advance ("Please don't hate me if I forget your name . . ."). I know that doesn't work for some, but I've forgotten enough things that I can understand where they're coming from.

Glass Dragon

My brain seems to lock on to some things and let others go, and I haven't yet discovered the trick to consciously determining what gets saved in my memory and what gets discarded. In consequence, I remember things like the combination to the lock on the bike chain I never used as a kid (7-1-3), and yet I can't for the life of me remember why I wanted to go to the store today. Sigh. At least I forgot why I wanted to go BEFORE I got there. XD

Len Lambert

Hi Michelle, I'm the same. I forget a lot of things. I haven't found a solution yet! 🙁

Hi Michelle,Tumeric has been demonstrated to reduce neurological-related diseases. I don't think you have one, but it improves memory, keeping you from losing anymore.In some ways, you are fortunate you can forget some things. I have a hard time forgetting anything which makes it odd for me because I find myself reliving bad experiences in my head and feeling horrible all over again. In your case, if you want to recall things, you might just need to start practicing. For instance, perhaps remember something about the conversation and use that as an indicator to the rest of your memory. Sort of like a filing tab.But if all else fails, just be yourself. There are a lot of absent-minded people. I doubt you have anything wrong with you. You're just you. What I have found to be true (at least for me) is that our dependence on calendars and computers has made us less likely to use our heads for memory. Our attraction to TV, movies, music, etc., has shortened our attention span, and therefore our memories. Kids don't nearly remember as much as they used to; adults either. I'm not saying that this is you. I'm saying that this is society.So, remember: goldfish live blissful lives. They don't have to carry the baggage elephants find themselves saddled with (whether or not they want it).

Anne Gallagher

I'm attributing my forgetfulness these days to being so busy. My brain just can't hold all the information it is supposed to and therefore just rejects whatever it comes in contact with.Are you on medication? That always leaves me with less than stellar brain function.

My ability to retain a piece of information is inversely proportionate the the importance of that information. The more mundane and useless the knowledge, the more likely I am to remember it.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Amanda: I'm glad I'm not alone! Infuriating is the right word for it, I think. It just seems that I get myself in trouble more with this problem than anything else in my life, so that's why it's so hard. If you ever find something that helps, let me know!Liana: Haha about immediate things you need to know like number of children. I can't go wrong with that one. One. One. One. That's it. I hope I never forget that I have just one. Hah. That's amazing about the book editing thing, by the way. I don't think I've made a blunder that big with writing before. Wow! At least you can laugh about it, right? 🙂Annie: Ok, I'm happy you don't mind my mistake! I thought I'd for SURE never forget that Reese's comment! Go figure. Beth: It could be an actual disorder. I'm just afraid that if I start digging around about information I'll get really paranoid, lol. Wait, maybe I already am. 🙂Anthony: I don't have a smart phone, but perhaps I should get one…that could really help. My phone does keep track of things, but it's a pain in the butt to use and not worth it. My email does support task lists. I tried that for a long time and it worked, but not well enough to keep up the effort. So I moved to keeping everything in Google calendar. That has seemed to help a lot. It emails me reminders and stuff and it's all laid out in one easy spot to see everything. I'll keep using that for sure.Scott: I think with the rise in cell phones, our memories are getting worse. I only know a few phone numbers these days. I used to know dozens because I had to know them. Now it's just too easy to rely on phones and their memories. And no worries about the picture of Monarch. I would adore seeing you with a copy, but I actually forgot you were going to do that. That doesn't surprise you, right? 🙂Angela: Ohhh, I've done the purse thing before! *head to desk* I'm just lucky it hasn't resulted in anything disastrous yet. My hubby almost always grabs it for me. I should never shop alone, lol. I love your quote! That's actually really freeing to read. Tiffany: Yeah, my hubby remembers everything, too. It's hard for him to deal with me never remembering anything he tells me. Cynthia: You know, I wonder sometimes if I'm ADHD, but I know I'm just being paranoid. What you describe, though, about switching to something else and forgetting the original task is something I do every day as well – multiple times a day. I'm grateful for windows in Explorer to remind me I was somewhere else earlier…

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Charlie: Oh, Charlie, yeah, I should get that back to you. ;)Your comment has me giggling. 🙂Angie: You know, I'm not that far away from 40, so maybe this is why this seems to be getting worse? Hmmm… Jake: Wow, a scientific explanation! That's awesome, thank you! Not sure what I can do about that, though. Writing things down – the actual act of it IS very helpful. That is how I would study for tests in school, and although it would work well for my short-term memory (a few days or weeks, maybe months), I would quickly forget the information if it was not valuable to me beyond a grade. These days I notice myself writing stuff down while I'm on the phone and when I'm done I've got a paper with random stuff all over it that doesn't make much sense later if I don't quickly organize it into a list for later. I will keep doing that. Jacqueline: Hehe, your comment made me smile. And exercise is something I've been slacking on – you are right that I should do that!Sarah: Yeah, in the book department I can read a book over and over again and it's almost like new every time! This is both very cool and very bad. Your memory sounds as bad as mine. What's wrong with all of us!? The sad thing, I don't think of 40's as "old age" at ALL.Michael: Aww, thank you for that compliment! Trust me, I'm covering it all up (my insecurities). I act like I totally know what I'm doing because I'm so afraid that people will judge me if I don't. It's helpful to be married to an actor. Janet: Yeah, it's hurting other people that is hard for me. Also, when I make money mistakes or forget that I have no money in the bank and I go on a shopping spree. BAD. Sigh. I like the asking for forgiveness in advance. I should do that more.Becca: Yeah, it's that consciously determining that's hard. I think I remember (I think…) seeing an ad for a book or methods to remembering things better. I should look into that. I'll write it down. *cough*Len: I'm not sure a ton of people have, it looks like! At least I'm not as alone as I thought. Leah: Mmm, I definitely like curry, and that has tumeric in it… :)You know, bad experiences I usually remember quite easily, which sucks. Although some I find my brain automatically shoving away and numbing them to a point where I only remember a few details. That's nice. Thank you about saying to just be myself. That's actually very good advice, and perhaps if I am more relaxed I'll actually remember more. Anne: Yeah, being busy has not helped this memory issue at all. Yes, I am on medication, actually, and I wonder if it affects memory. I should ask my doctor. I've been on it since I was a teen.Rick: Haha, yes, that's how mine seems too!

Michael Offutt

Whoah…your husband is an actor? What's he been in? I want to watch some of his movies.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Michael: He's been an extra in some movies and short films – some larger parts than others, but mostly he does stage work. He also does fight choreography. He was most recently in The Three Musketeers at The Covey in Provo. Link here: http://www.coveycenter.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=305:the-three-musketeers&catid=1:performance-hall&Itemid=9

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Oh, he was one of the musketeers – the one on the far right.

If getting away for a bit feels right, go for it. In the end we are all trying to increase our happiness and what does so changes, so it's only logical that you might need a change too.Now, I know you're not going to remember this reply, but that's only more appropriate:If I ever laugh, it's only because I completely understand since I AM EXACTLY THE SAME WAY! If you've got a 2-hour memory buffer, you're doing good. In this house anything past five minutes ago is excusable.So please, don't feel laughed at. It's relief-jitters from not being alone. And it happens with the same overwhelming relief every time because it is like discovering I'm not alone for the first time since I've forgotten last time already. @.@PS If you don't wear a name tag I will forget your name. You, the world at large, have been warned. Good luck remembering that! :p

Martin Willoughby

I put my memory problems down to being 48 (I know I only look 30…and a few months) and make a joke about it.Maybe you don't remember it in the first place (well d'uh I hear you say). I find that if I've forgotten something it's because I haven't made the effort to remember it. To do that, I just stop what I'm doing, tell myself whatever it is, and then move on.It's not perfect, but my memory is far better than it was.

Wow, your so lucky. Your revisions must always be fresh and new. I bet you can watch movies and read books over and over and if you don't remember how it ends it's like seeing it again for the first time.I bet this gold fish memory isn't all that bad.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Alicia: Thank you for your comment, my friend. I know you would never laugh at me maliciously. And you're right that what makes us happy changes. A lot. It's good to remember that it's ok. 🙂Martin: It's a good idea to stop and try and commit things to memory that I know for sure I want to remember. I've done it before and it does help. I just need to take the time to do it more often. LC: You know, I think that's why I love revising so much! Drafting is really hard for me. I think I edit as I go mostly because I've forgotten details of what I wrote earlier so I have to keep going back to re-read stuff. 🙂

I'm so glad it's not just me who forgets who has read my books. I also forget who has asked for them, and who I've given copies to. It's really embarrassing every time someone says, "I finished that book you sent me, and I love it!" and then I have to say…um…which book was that? I do this to family. I do this to close friends. It's so lame.I dread having to write an acknowledgements page. I'm invariably going to forget people.

Michelle Davidson Argyle

Janci: I can sympathize with you on the acknowledgements page thing. It's just good that I have plenty more books I'm going to publish and I can fit everyone into all the books eventually. 🙂

Rose Nevets

Been so busy I'm catching up on reading older blog posts. I have no helpful advice to give on the memory thing, just ask Nevets, I'm the same way. My advice is to find a good hubby, which you seem to have done already, and not worry about it terribly much! But if you find a miracle cure, let me know!!!