I’ve been thinking a lot about thinking lately.
More accurately, I’ve been thinking about my brain. I’d like to say that I got my first concussion scaling a mountain, or running a trail, or building my own log cabin using just my bare hands and a handsaw. I’d like to, but the fact is I accidentally pulled down some heavy glass bowls onto my own head when I was too lazy to pull out a step ladder. I was literally knocked senseless by my over-abundance of material goods. I’ve since cleared out that cupboard and put aside some of the multitudinous crap in a box destined for the Goodwill, but in the interim I learned some kind of intriguing things about my own noggin.
One: Start off Slow
Ever since I became a Widow-lady, I have filled my empty house with the voices of others. The first thing each morning, I turn on the news on the radio and allow the Little Yellow House to fill with chatter. Pundits, commentators, announcers, politicians, actors, authors, reviewers, prognosticators: I’ve been having them all over for breakfast every day for nearly three years. But for a week there, I had to bar the door. They were overwhelming me. I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I couldn’t suss out the relationship between all those words pouring over me and actual things in the real world. Instead, I ate my eggs and drank my smoothies with Olafur Arnalds (listen to him, please, it’ll change you). I didn’t hear about the killings, or the taxes. I didn’t hear the justifications and the rationalizations. I heard piano, and strings, and the silence spaces between the notes. I heard beauty. And I don't miss all those visitors one bit.
Two: The World Won’t Wait for You
I shouldn’t have been driving. I know that. But I had to get a check deposited. I had to get milk. So many cars. People on bikes. Dogs. Shadows. I was moving at a pace that was different than everyone else. Sometimes something happens and you can actually feel the earth spinning beneath your feet. It can be unnerving. It may leave you gasping. But when your brain can’t automatically do its regular magic, when it can’t habitually pin you firmly in your place for you, your other senses speak up: you can taste the relativity, you can smell the instability, you can hear what transience sounds like. It's very nice to understand the trajectory of a ball flying through the air again, but I also have a deep appreciation for the millions of calculations my head does for me every second of every day.
Three: You Are Who You Think You Are
At one point during this strange adventure, while I was making some lunch, I had a sudden vivid memory of my mother drawing cartoons on the lunch bags I would take to school. I had the tactile sense of picking up the bag and smiling at the picture she had created for just that day. It made me warm. But I don’t know if that happened. And for a moment or two I tried very hard to identify The Truth Of The Matter, until I realized that it didn’t matter. I am a 50 year old woman who has the sense and memory of having been so loved that I carried a unique piece of art with me as I went off into the world as a child. Whether there was a drawing or not is beside the fact. Only a child given that kind of affection could create this kind of memory so many decades later. This is actually the Truth: the act of remembering it in and of itself means that I was so loved.
My head is pretty much back to normal now. I can read a calendar. I can easily drive. I can run the trails and accurately hurdle puddles without accidentally landing in the mud. (I'm still challenged to count, stroke, kick, AND breathe when I swim, but it'll come.) But in its malfunctioning I got a glimpse of the real wondrous-ness of my own amazing brain. And even with the headaches, that was kind of astounding.