Situational Awareness

Last night I did something dumb. I left the gas on one of our stove’s burners. No flame, just a low leak of natural gas. Fortunately my wife realized it a bit later, and after airing out the house just to be sure we resumed our normal lives.vidar-nordli-mathisen-544139-unsplash

Except that I have a fear of dementia. I don’t have a family had the history of it but I wondered out loud to my wife if this is how it begins. We talked about it for awhile and eventually chalked it up to absent-mindedness.

I tend to be absent-minded those times when I’m distracted, either externally (such as with the case of the stove) or internally (if I’m thinking about a plot twist, for example). These are normal situations that we all live with and through. Yet I had another epiphany at the gym yesterday that makes me think more is involved.

I was near the end of my workout, sitting on the triceps machine, staring at my phone, reading some article on some news site I don’t recall. I spent the time between sets reading random stuff because I had forgotten my headphones. My usual distraction is to listen to a podcast, talk radio, music (80’s or Christian usually), or an audio Bible. I couldn’t do that, so I filled my head with random reading.

I  had a sudden desire to put the phone down and just soak in the atmosphere at my local YMCA. I was a bit surprised how crowded the workout area had become since I had started about 45 minutes earlier. Our veterinarian was on a rowing machine. Who else was there that I may know and ignored?

I think that in the age of having constant information on our hips we have lost some of our situational awareness ability. Like any muscle or skill, if you don’t use it you’ll lose it, to a point. Perhaps my situational awareness skills have atrophied to the point where minor distractions can prevent me from noticing things such as a stove top burner not shut off properly.

Perhaps this also affects writing. Is it possible that we can fill our brain with so much garbage information that we affect its other functions, such as creativity?

I don’t believe I’m experiencing early dementia, but rather the effects from letting my situational awareness skills weaken. I plan to reverse that, meaning less reading about subjects that I really cannot influence much and cause great stress (such as politics) and more just staying in the now, soaking in the environment I’m in at any and every given moment. Maybe, just maybe, that will help my writing as well.

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash