In her book The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change, Pauline Moss detailed her thoughts on ‘loss.’ There were often no bodies, and thus no rituals for mourning. Rather than being tied to a specific event such as a vehicle accident or heart attack, losses from cancer, dementia, COVID-19 frequently extended through weeks or years. Every day deepened in ways that grievers could not register. Could such experiences even be considered losses? Boss coined a term to define the unclear (and often unacknowledged) absences as ‘ambiguous loss(s).’ First, 2021 was filled with loss, including my father, ex-wife, and ex-mother-in-law died. Next, my parent’s dog Skip followed my father’s death in August. And last, my ex-wife’s brother entered jail on Christmas Eve for securities violation. All of this was before my own perceived physical loss. Now that I’ve become aware, I sense father and son are eerily connected.

Just like my father’s suffered during his 5-year slow death spiral, I can’t seem to get the fuzzy fog from my brain. I cannot put my finger on it. I first experienced this latest medical issue while driving this past week. I barely missed cars and fought lane shift (as I am told) as a lack of concentration that has eased into portions of my day. Thought processing doesn’t seem significantly longer, but nearly everything takes longer to process. Yet, just as everything is impermanent, I must adapt.

How long before the brain fuzz wipes me out?” I asked myself. A part of me fears my father is in me. I watched him slowly die, body first, then mind, then both. At day’s end, I reflect and fear the erosion of intellect. Have I forgotten things? No. Maybe I missed some appointments? No. Do I have poor judgment? No. Do I have difficulty managing tasks? And no. But I cannot figure out why I lose track of lanes when driving or don’t see impediments on either my vehicle’s right or left. The fog is disturbing. How can I fight the ultimate undoing?

Unnerved by it all, I made adjustments in post-death documentation to reflect new information. Second, I shifted to a Samsung s21 Ultra, as the memory appears easier to load and access file storage. Third, I continually experience blood loss from recurring nose bleeds and colon ulcers that come in waves. Fourth, I am back to using a Franklin Covey Planner, not because I enjoy writing everything via hand, but to remind myself. And If I can write it out, maybe the information will transcend my new mental weakness and be correctly stored for later use. But for today, I focused on mental fog.

I first discussed fog in several blog posts. In What Exactly Was That, I discussed a near-death experience. In Lists, I discussed walking through a black fog and following an ‘intuitively’ known path. Finally, What’s Worth Doing Badly detailed physical aspects of fog, where my brain felt as though it were in San Francisco’s slow-rolling, early evening fog. But the mental ‘fog’ currently experienced is the slowness of thinking and difficulty concentrating. Am I about to enter an extended period of fuzzy thinking? I wasn’t sharp but remained ‘aware.’ I knew what was happening but could not react quickly enough to the events surrounding me. And so, as 2021 ends, will 2022 bring Auld Lang Syne? Is this the beginning of my future’s end? 

Will 2022 rob me of life itself, albeit in incrementally subtle ways? If so, I have to live with that. “Am I losing my mind?” I muttered. That was the question I continually asked these past several days. These are times that tire me – not because of fatigue, but because I fear losing the mental capacity to perform. I fear my ability to contribute. I fear some demagogue would label me ‘worthless.’ For many folks in 2022, they can move forward, with full knowledge, that they can still insert accurate report dates, type a clear email without hands shaking, drive proper lanes, and can look at fluorescent lights without asking, “Does that light look fuzzy, or is it me?” By 2023, many will have cut thousands of vegetables without slicing a part of their hand. They can button a shirts, sit on a toilets without constipation, walk without cramps, walk without pain. In essence, they don’t fear the future and are not required to veneer life.

In 2022, I am resigned to the fact of embracing the ‘fake it until I make it‘ approach. But ‘fake it until you make it‘ suggests that by imitating confidence, competence, and an optimistic mindset, a person can realize those qualities in their real life and achieve the results they seek. Unfortunately, the dying cannot realize qualities normally afforded to younger clear-minded adults. Most of the dying (like me) fear the pillar of my existence has crumbled. On the outside, I remain calm, quietly cycling through the day’s unwanted tasks. Internally, I am a sea of churning emotions filled by circulating pools of confusion, disbelief, and fear. And right now, I fear I cannot trust myself to present a coherent face.

If 2021 was ugly (which it was for me), then 2022 finds me grieving for the loss of old rhythms while simultaneously sensing the doorway of death. For the first time in years, I am confused of the role God requires of me. As a result, I want to rewire my brain, the part controlling emotions and behaviors, that part that ensures survival. I fear 2022 will find me sliding off a cliff to incoherent sentences or failure to remember certain aspects of the day. On the other hand, my neurologist may attest, “No problem. Your brain has powered down to a thinking level that enables me to function. The tradeoff is fuzzy cognition. It’s like the brain knows exactly what’s required and will make sure the body does its best to get it.”

God, I hope so. Otherwise, 2021’s Auld Lang Syne won’t mean much.