“I’m not a girl—I’m a woman. I want things. Shall I ever have them? To write all the morning and then to get lunch over quickly and to write again in the afternoon and have supper and one cigarette together and then to be alone again till bedtime—and all this love and joy that fights for outlet, and all this life drying up, like milk, in an old breast. Oh, I want life! I want friends and people and a house. I want to give and to spend.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, May 15, 1915
Tuesday late afternoon. Sunny and very warm.
I’ve spent several hours online looking for a transmission for the Dodge. Vic, our neighbor, is ready to start work on the truck. We need to buy a transmission and a transfer case. I’m tired of speaking to men who talk too quickly, mumble, then get agitated if I ask them to repeat what they said. You know the kind of person of whom I am speaking—they don’t like speaking on the phone, so they rush to try to get off as soon as possible.
As a result, I have a dull headache in the back of my skull.
Speaking of which, I don’t remember if I mentioned it, but my lumbar puncture came back normal, no fungus, no infection. So now what?
I rescheduled my appointment with my gastro guy, which was supposed to be yesterday. I rescheduled for next Monday, and I must keep this one as I really need to know the results of my last two tests, that and tell him that the new medication that he gave me has stopped working. I wake up every morning with my mouth tasting like acid. I can’t keep eating Tums all day long to supplement the new medicine, which is supposed to be so much better than Nexium, but for me at least, it’s not.
Last night I dreamed that I had taken up smoking again, which is so far-fetched. I’ve been trying to get Corey to stop for years, to no avail. I’ve never been hooked, but I used to smoke in college during exams, and I tend to want to smoke if I’m in a bar or singing karaoke (neither of which has happened in quite a while).
Yesterday I decided to sweep the doggy hair tumbleweeds that were all over the wood flooring. After I did that, I decided that the floors really needed to be cleaned, so I mopped the kitchen, bathroom, and entry way, and cleaned the wood floors with Murphy’s oil wax, all of this on top of keeping the laundry going all day. By 9 p.m. I was hot, hurting, and exhausted, so no posting for me even though I had already picked out my quotes.
“You want to live—but do you know how to live? You are scared of dying—and, tell me, is the kind of life you lead really any different from being dead?” ~ Seneca
Last night, Eamonn picked up Brett, and the two of them went with Alexis to see their grandfather in the hospital. Once again, I did not see Alexis. Brett said that his grandpa looks bad and that he was really tired, but he did recognize everyone. I know that for Brett anyway, having his grandfather be more cognizant helped to make the visit a bit more bearable.
I’m going to try to go with Ann later in the week if possible. I’m hoping that I don’t run into my ex or my step-m-in-law while I’m there. The prospect of seeing either or both makes me cringe, but it won’t keep me from visiting
My gardenia bush is in bloom, so perhaps I’ll cut some blooms to take when I go. My f-in-law got into raising roses when he married his second/current wife. Ann told me that when she went to see him, he mentioned that he needed to cut some roses for her mother because she would like that. I’m thinking that in his final days, he may be feeling a bit of guilt about how he left my m-in-law for the other woman, but I am only surmising. Who knows how the brain works when the body begins to shut down.
I would imagine that the past and the present begin to comingle, that time ceases to be linear and reverts to being circular, that things long forgotten come back to the forefront and that the most recent memories fade most easily. It’s all part of the mystery.
“Learn the alchemy true human beings know. The moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given the door will open.” ~Jalal-al-Din Rumi
Our brains are such interesting organs. They are the seat of our emotions and the housing for our logic. Everything that we know, that we feel, that we think—it all comes from our brains. Our very consciousness arises from the little grey cells. Our dreams, passions, likes, and dislikes all reside within this three-pound organ, give or take a few ounces. We are born with the capacity for such emotions as joy, happiness, fear, and shyness, but the nurturing we receive affects how these emotions are developed.
Our brains are almost full-sized when we are born, and a newborn’s brain contains most of the brain cells for life. Interestingly, our brains stop growing around age 18. Does this explain why teenagers act they way that they do?
Some disorders originate from the brain, like my m-in-law’s Parkinson’s Disease. Psychiatric conditions such as my depression are thought to arise from a brain dysfunction. My brother-in-law’s brain damage from the car accident has resulted in his impaired vision, and cerebral cortex damage means that he cannot speak. My daughter Caitlin’s malignant ependymoma was located in the fourth ventricle of her brain.
Because the human brain is about 75 percent water, it is very susceptible to damage from alcohol and drugs, something my ex should probably consider when he’s on his sixth beer. Alcohol also weakens the connections between neurons. Also consider that smoking is bad for the brain as it causes brain cells to die and stops neurogenesis, the process of creating new brain cells.
And then, of course, there is love, which does not reside in the heart as the ancients believed, but rather in the brain. Specifically, fight, flight, anger, and love all reside in the most primitive part of the brain, the brain stem, or the lizard brain, so called because it resembles the entire brain of reptiles. This area of the brain, located near the base of the skull, hearkens back to the dinosaur brain, interestingly enough.
“The silence one hopes for, no echoes of recrimination. Dreams reside there.” ~ Robert Gibbons, from “XI,” Rhythm of Desire and Resistance
I read a mind-blowing article (pun intended) called “Humans Have Three Brains,” by James Thornton. According to Thornton, human have three brains: the lizard brain, the dog brain, and the human brain.
The lizard brain, which developed first, is the smallest. It controls “breathing, vision, bodily movement” and also allows “fierce territorial fights, lusty bouts of mating, and displays of anger.” Thornton also contends that lizard brains do not allow for complex states such as loyalty, which is why an alligator mother will leave her eggs. Loyalty comes from the dog brain.
Mammals came into being about 100 million years ago. The mammalian or dog brain that resides atop the lizard brain is the complex limbic system. Thornton says that the dog brain accounts for the richer experiences, such as love and loyalty.
Then there is the human brain, the neo-cortex, which developed a few hundred thousand years ago with the appearance of the apes. This brain gives rise to poetry, art, language, and reason: “It is inside this human brain that mathematics and music, deception and politics, religion and racism live. It is the Machiavelli as well as the Mozart brain, the Eichman as well as the Einstein brain.”
Thornton posits that these brains work inter-dependently; the human brain contains language, but the separate dog and lizard brains contain emotions:
The older brains cannot speak. They can only feel and act. This is where the self-contradictory nature of so much human behavior comes from. It explains why we can cheat on someone we love: each of our brains is pursuing different kinds of satisfaction.
The lizard brain is moved to lust. The dog brain is moved to love and loyalty. The human brain is moved to the idea of romance and a dream of ethics. (The human brain is also moved to sadomasochism and premeditated murder.)
Apparently, humans have different kinds of memory also. According to Thornton, there are “independent memory systems in the neo-cortex and the limbic system. The big human brain has the intellectual memory where we remember facts and phone numbers. The dog brain has an emotion-based memory. It is slower to learn but retains memories longer. In fact it never forgets your experiences. As we age the neo-cortical memory degrades and we have senior moments. This doesn’t happen to the limbic brain.”
“Everyone stands alone at the heart of the world, pierced by a ray of sunlight, and suddenly it’s evening.” ~ Salvatore Quasimodo
Our brains are soft and fatty. They create enough wattage to illuminate a light bulb. They are the actual seat of power in the human body, but they are also fragile even though the organ itself can feel no pain. A stroke can do irreparable harm to a brain, as can bruising of the brain and oxygen deprivation.
We can choose to enhance our brain’s capabilities by reading more and learning other languages, and we can stint the growth of another’s brains through sensory deprivation and abuse. Eating seafood regularly can decrease our susceptibility to dementia. Oxytocin can make us feel love and be more receptive to sex; it can make us feel content and reduce anxiety. Endorphins can relieve pain and control our appetites, and our brains produce both of these hormones.
The brain is an enigma. It is wiredrawn like a finely spun web: intricate, beautiful, strong and simultaneously fragile. I knew a woman who worked at Old Dominion, seemingly healthy, in her 30’s, who died in an instant from a brain aneuryism. There was no warning. She was in the kitchen, and her husband heard her say, ‘Oh.” By the time he got there from the bedroom, she was dead.
What it boils down to for me is the mystery, how the scope of emotions can reside in something that only makes up about 2 percent of our total body weight. How misery and elation can both come from the same place. How our ability to reason logically is in proximity to our ability to be devious. How the invisible, the intangible, and the immeasurable—love, loyalty, hate, and happiness—are manifest along with the tangible—blinking, yawning, talking, and seeing.
I will tell you this: Of all the parts of my body, I think my brain is the sexiest, and it’s the part that I like the best.
More later. Peace.
Music by Michelle Branch, “Are You Happy Now?”
Late in the day the fog
wrung itself out like a sponge
in glades of rain,
sieving the half-invisible
cove with speartips;
then, in a lifting
of wisps and scarves, of smoke-rings
from about the islands, disclosing
what had been wavering
fishnet plissé as a smoothness
of peau-de-soie or just-ironed
percale, with a tatting
of foam out where the rocks are,
the sheened no-color of it,
the bandings of platinum
and magnesium suffusing,
minute by minute, with clandestine
rose and violet, with opaline
nuance of milkweed, a texture
not to be spoken of above a whisper,
began, all along the horizon,
gradually to unseal
like the lip of a cave
or of a cavernous,
“We are healed of a suffering only by expressing it to the full.” ~ Marcel Proust
“Words are of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind” ~ Rudyard Kipling
It has been a few days since my last post in which I wrote about not being able to write. I proposed that my inability to write might be chemical, might be emotional. I finished that entry, posted it, and did not come near my computer for more than 48 hours. On the third day, I looked in on some regular sites, made a couple of short comments, then walked away from the computer again. It was as if the keys themselves had evolved into hot coals, devices of torture.
My computer, my sounding board, had become my personal albatross, but instead of hanging round my neck, it sat quietly humming in the corner of the bedroom, taunting me, as if to say, “I’m waiting.” At times during the past few days, I have glared at my computer, wishing its presence away rather than having to set my fingers to the keyboard again. At other moments, I have looked at it longingly, wishing that I could reconnect with it, and in so doing, with myself.
That’s not to say that I haven’t been reading; I’ve been reading notes of support from faithful readers, all essentially saying the same thing: It will be okay. When you are ready, the words will come. Those missives have been manna, sustaining me, reminding me that anyone who writes experiences periods of drought, periods in which the words simply will not form, will not make that connection from all of the fiercely firing thoughts racing through the brain to a message that is not even necessarily well formed, just simply a message, a communication of some sort, any sort.
“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.” ~ Anthony Robbins
But this time, this time was different, and I knew it. You see, I had come so far in my journey this time, that to abandon it, or to let it abandon me, simply was not an option.
And so I sat down this afternoon, placed my fingers on the keyboard as I have done a thousand times before, and instead of waiting for the words to come, I went searching for them, knowing them to be harbored somewhere deep within the recesses of my mind. I opened doors to thoughts. I walked down hallways of the past. I flung open windows of memory. And then I suddenly realized that I was looking in the wrong place.
“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out” ~ Ray Bradbury
The words were not in my mind. They were in my heart, within these four chambers that enclose all of my passion and all of my grief. All of my desires and all of my fears. All of the joy and sorrow and all of the other countless contradictions that make me who and what I am: a woman who loves deeply, who protects fiercely, and who, when hurting the most, feels the least capable.
I allowed myself the indulgence of moving through this place—intimately familiar yet foreign at times. And I realized that the words were not gone, were not lost, and neither was I. That in the midst of my outward sadness, I had erected a barrier of protection, as often I am wont to do. I had allowed my fear to paralyze me: If I did not try to write, then I could not fail to write.
So in the end, I wrote—an explanation as much for myself as for anyone else. Yes, the doubt still lingers, probably always shall: am I good enough? Does what I do matter? To those questions, I may never have an answer, or rather, the answer. But perhaps I understand the doubt a bit more, can look it in the eye for what it is.
“Self-expression must pass into communication for its fulfillment.” Pearl S. Buck
I sit here and write because I have something to say. Just exactly what I say does not necessarily have to be profound or deep or even eloquently written, no matter how much I might wish it to be. But in the saying, I am sending out the words because I want them to be read. And in the reading, I want the words affirmed and myself to be understood. It is my communion.
We are no different than the other beasts of the world in sending out our calls to our own kind, hoping for responses, acknowledgement that another like us is nearby. Our reasons for so doing are as varied as the calls of the birds outside my bedroom window just before dawn. Our methods vary: Some compose music, stringing together harmonies; others paint or draw, creating beauty and introspection that can be seen. And then others, those of us who would, write.
We create to communicate, to share, to remember and be remembered. Regardless of the trappings of our media, we communicate because we can, and if we did not, then we would perish as people.
I write because I can, because I desire to, because I need to. But most importantly, I write because I must.