Today I forgot how to make a paper crane.
That might sound like no big deal, but it’s actually a huge deal. When I was in elementary school, we did a fundraiser based on the book Sadako and the 1000 Paper Cranes. We had a big session in the gym the day it was announced, where every one of us learned how to make an origami crane. We made more than the thousand that was our goal, and they hung all over the school, in a ranbow of colors.
I can’t remember what we were fundraising for anymore, or what our prize was for reaching our goal of 1000 paper cranes, but ever since then, I’ve always made paper cranes when I get bored. I make them out of napkin wrappers in restaurants, scraps of notebook paper in class, wrappers from candies. The steps to making a crane have been ingrained in my memory for 16 years; I can pretty much make a crane with my eyes closed and completely preoccupied with something else.
Or at least, I used to be able to. I’m taking a paper batik and bookmaking class for studio art credits for graduate school. Today I finished my book early and was bored, so I picked up a square of bright magenta paper and started the first steps to making a crane. Fold diagonally in half, fold again the other way. Fold in half to make a rectangle and fold the other way. Push all of the corners up to form a point, the flatten to form a square. Then…
I totally blanked out. I had no idea what to do next. I sat there and stared at the square of paper, turning it this way and that, trying to figure out what the next step was. I pushed the flaps in and out, without any idea of how to fold the paper to make the wings and legs. It took me about a minute of playing around before it finally kind of came back to me. I was incredibly relieved, but also upset.
I wasn’t this upset after leaving my car keys in the freezer, nor was I this upset when I forgot how to roll down my car windows. Troubled, yes, but upset, no. Those were just little things that didn’t really matter (or at least the car keys were, but forgetting how to roll down the window was pretty bad). But this — this is huge. I feel like I lost a part of myself that I’ve had for more than a decade and a half. When we go to restaurants and such, my family members always pass me their napkin wrappers for me to make cranes out of. It’s what they know me for, and what I do in my down time and for relaxation, or when I just have nothing else to do and there’s paper handy. And today I feel like that little part of me that I’m known for disappeared.
I don’t know what to do. I could go back to my doctor and ask to have my medication reduced again, but my pain levels would probably increase, and I don’t want to start next semester being in pain all the time. Or I could reduce and go on a pain medication, but that’s not something I really want right now — I’ve resisted going on pain meds so far, and don’t want to start now. I could also switch medications, but that would mean months of figuring out the dosage, if it even works. And then there are the side effects to contend with. Who knows what those might be? Medication is about balance, and I’m at a point now where I need to decide what’s important and what needs and wants outweigh the others. I was willing to deal with a bit of memory loss when it came to small things like where I left my keys, but this is much, much bigger than that. This is part of my identity.
I dunno. I should probably go back and see what she says. My next actual appointment isn’t until September (about the longest I’ve going without seeing her since she became my PCP), but I know I could get in within the week if I wanted to. She’ll probably blow me off and tell me what I’ve already said: “Medication is about finding balance between the pros and cons.” But is a little more pain control worth the continuing degeneration of my memory? I just don’t know. I need to think on this more before I make a decision.