Like it was yesterday, I remember the day I realized that my brain does not retain facts.
Boston, 1995. I was 25. My new boyfriend at the time was the kind of person who could – and I’m sure still can – read an article or watch a show and file away the dates, statistics and progressions of events. Those little gems of information would just hang out in his brain until they are needed or until the end of time. Whichever comes first. And the same was true of all his friends and, by association, my new circle.
Quite innocently on this particular day, he asked me a question about an article I had read about the history of electricity. And I had no answer. Yes, I had read it. But for the life of me, I couldn’t spit out a single factual statement.
I knew the gist. But I couldn’t explain with any confidence what I had read and by no means could I pull out any numbers or stats or concrete anythings.
If I only knew then what I know now, the pools of sweat would have subsided. The pressure would have dissipated. I would not have silently chastised my A+ student self for being a dummy or for looking stupid.
I would have known that “hell, yeah,” I do remember facts – when they are tied to emotions.
I would have known that I’d remember that day and recount it 20 years later.
I would have known that it’s much more fun to watch movies a second, third and even fourth time when you don’t have instant recall of the movie plot.
I would have known that I really do not connect with people cut from the factoid cloth. And I’d rather sneak into the hotel kitchen to talk with the wait staff than discuss theories and history and topics that require recollection of facts.
I would have known that not all brains are alike. But it can seem that way when you are the “alien” in the room. It sure did for me.
I would have known that I have crazy recall of the names of the 70 or so kids from Saint Pius X Elementary School, eighth grade graduating class of 1984. And I remember where each of them celebrated special birthdays and that Joey Savarese had a party at Radnor Rolls Skating Rink – maybe his 10th.
I would have known that emotional connections drive memory storage. And for what I’m lacking in the cold hard fact storage, I make up 10 fold in emotional and relationship recall.
Today I am surrounded by a tribe of people who LOVE to spend time talking about feelings and the absurdities of the human condition.
And for fact finding and cold storage, we count on a little company called Google.
Want to learn more? Check out this fascinating article on how the mind and memory works: http://www.spring.org.uk/2012/10/how-memory-works-10-things-most-people-get-wrong.php
Years ago when I was going through a really hard time, one of my dearest friends taught me a question that got me through sleepless nights and has since served me well.
“What good can come of this?”
It’s a hard question to ask yourself when things seem quite impossibly “bad.”
But it’s worth it.
Last week after the San Bernadino shooting…
Then the SoCal gas leak…
And this morning after reading yet another article that compares Trump to Hitler…
I talked myself out of moving to another country and asked the question.
“What good can come of this?”
Funny enough, an answer came.
It’s not original, but it’s true.
As a sensitive soul, a dreamer, an empath, a writer, a mother, I have a habit of putting my head in the sand. Of letting my political cynicism take over. I check out. I lay low. I stop knowing what’s happening. On purpose. Because, really, it’s just too much.
Yesterday I saw this image floating around Facebook.
I’m a Taurus. And, yes, 25 hours seems about right. It made me laugh out loud. My mom says that my default state as a baby was sleeping. I’d wake to eat and “do my business.” Then back to sleep!
But I wonder now about that need, desire, longing for sleep. Is it a way to escape being alive and out here in the world?
So, what good can come of this?
I don’t have any political aspirations. But I do know that I am a leader and an influencer.
All of this chaos is stirring up in me a desire to be a force of good. Not necessarily to go head to head with the “bad.” But to stand up loud and proud and take the lead on issues a little more salient than I have in the past. To slough off any doubts I’ve had in the past about whether my voice matters.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that there’s a certain amount of distance and buffer that’s healthy. But then it gets to a point when it’s just a way of hiding.
As long as we’re alive, we might as well be full out living. Right?
Guess it’s time for this Rumpelstiltskin to git on up.
(Periodic naps are still permissible.)
Says everyone including my seven-year-old son while he was falling asleep last night.
Wow! What a reminder to never underestimate the depth of a child’s musings.
Especially the souls who clearly have fully developed adult sensibilities and just happen to be wearing size 1 sneakers.
Ya know, despite my best efforts, some of the worst news headlines still sink in. And sometimes I click on those story links and my guts twist in a knot. The shootings. The abuse. The neglect. The absurd.
This morning it was: “Man Strangles Woman On Plane For Putting Back Her Seat”
And then there was another that I can’t even publish here.
Call me a Pollyanna, but I look around and see people doing good things. I see people who care for the world and each other. I see more good than I ever have seen in my 45 years. I challenge you to do the same. Especially on those days where some of the worst news sneaks in.
Yes, of course, I see the dark stuff in my world, too. But Fear, Hate and Anger and the actions that stem from those places cannot be eradicated with more of the same. The more you rail against it, the more Fear, Hate and Anger grows.
I grew up afraid of being caught idle. It just wasn’t a thing to do. In fact, there were a million BETTER things to do rather than sitting around in your Gap loungewear (didn’t exist) and chillaxing (nope, not yet).
Maybe it was the influence of Depression Era grandparents. Or our conservative Catholic school. Or the parental anxiety caused by the landmark launch of MTV.
All I know is that for the last 40 years I continuously have worked hard at not working so hard.
Here are some Jedi Mind Tricks that have helped me. Perhaps they’ll help you or a friend who can’t seem to turn off the ON switch:
- Check your thinking. Resting on the couch or in a hammock or prone in the middle of the bed is NOT synonymous with laziness. Resting is its own thing. It has value. It is the important ebb that brings on the next flow.
- Turn off the electronics. For me, nothing raises the I’m-being-so-lazy flag faster than watching TV for too long or at the “wrong” time. When those feelings get evoked, shut down the electronics. Watching images flashing on a screen isn’t always the most relaxing thing to do anyway. Grab a magazine. A book. A crossword puzzle. A doodle pad.
- Get physical. Sometimes you just need to do more to do less. Shock yourself with a grand gesture of playfulness. For me, this usually takes the form of jumping in a hot bath fully clothed, swinging on the tire swing, digging in the dirt or running wind sprints in my front yard.
- Pace yourself. When you die, your “in basket” won’t be empty, as the awesome Richard Carlson said in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. You could work around the clock for the next 40 years and, still, your “in basket” would not be empty. It’s just life.
- Walking meditation, Tibetan monk-style. OK, this is totally out of left field, but it is incredible. Walk so slowly and mindfully so that you feel every movement of your feet and the ground beneath you. Barefoot. Be aware of sights and sounds around you. Want to see it in action? Check out this video.
Life is meant to be enjoyed. And, sure, hard work is great. But so are boundaries.
This weekend let’s channel our inner Spaniard by living the Spanish proverb: “How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward.”
I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I eat my vegetables. In fact, lots of them. Organic, of course. I exercise regularly. I floss daily. I wash my hands borderline obsessively. And I almost never eat sugar.
Because my body is happiest this way.
But, damn it, I will not pass up a gumball machine. Never. Not ever. It doesn’t matter if I don’t have a quarter. I will find one.
That little gumball, full of sugar and artificial colors, sitting in that car wash reception area for months, is my ultimate counterweight. Freud might say that it feeds my destructive drive. Maybe, Sigmund. Maybe.
Maybe it’s just fun. Maybe those little gumballs yield the best bubbles. (And they do.) Or maybe it’s become a superstition.
I really don’t care. (That’s definitely my destructive drive talking.) I just know that a little ritual and a little balance is a pretty good thing.
P.S. If I weren’t hypoglycemic, the counterweight would be a donut. But that’s off the table for now.