The Details that Escape Me

Is there a name for the disorder where stuff is tiny but important, and you always forget it? Whatever it is, I’ve got it.

After a particularly frustrating day this week I Googled “opposite of detail oriented” and got a list of 61 antonyms. Topping the list are absent -minded, inattentive, thoughtless, and neglectful. So of course then I felt even worse. Although incurious also appears, and I feel like that’s not talking about the same thing at all. Because I am curious about hundreds of things. I know a lot. I consider myself to be intelligent. I’m generally articulate; in fact, depending on how angry I am, I approach verbosity. I’m also a sympathetic listener and good at identifying my own feelings and the feelings of others.

What I am not is detail-oriented. If there is a very small but vital thing, I will forget it. For example, turning off the stove, remembering where my bike is parked, or the thing that precipitated this post: conducting an entire forty minute podcast interview without recording it. Not once, but twice in a row. I will spare you the details and only mention the fact that I repeated this feat using two entirely different types of recording software, and the second time I actually stopped to check if the interview was recording, and when I came back to it forgot to re-start the recording.

I’ve noticed that it’s worse when I’m stressed out. Particularly when I am stressed out about forgetting the very thing that I end up forgetting because of being stressed out about forgetting it. If that sounds circular it is, also in the sense of feeling eternally inescapable.

I do what I can to mitigate this aggravating failing. My job and other professional activities in which I engage require large amounts of creativity, strategic planning, and relationship building, and relatively little attention to detail. I have Google calendar or phone reminders set for everything I need to do, including things like leaving work, picking up my kids from school, and even getting off the train at the right stop. I keep track of things religiously in Trello, with which through sheer force of will I have largely managed to replace the system described in the comic at the beginning of this post.

I usually consider myself to be a high functioning non-detail-oriented person. Except on days like yesterday, when part two of the aforementioned podcast recording disaster occurred. Fortunately, my interviewee is the lovely Lucille from Expitterpattica, who was unbelievably gracious to my incompetent self, both the first and second time it happened. Thank you to her and to everyone who’s had to put up with a Sarah episode. I’ll make it up to you. Hopefully in some way that doesn’t involve any small details.