Finding the good brains among the bad brains (or, Finding the Hans Delbrucks among the Abby Normals).

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credit: Internet, somewhere

 

Brains – my brain, your brain, Chris Kattan’s brain – fascinate me. How, why and when they are able to do all that they do – it overwhelms my own brain just thinking about it.

I often joke that I have “bad brains,” using that term superficially and lightheartedly and in no way trying to make light of others’ mental health issues. I’m just poking fun at my own.

The picture above illustrates one of my personal manifestations of Bad Brains: the ability to block myself into incredible mental corners and behind tremendous imagined obstacles.

I bet you’ve got this too, maybe not constantly, maybe not even regularly – but I’d put money on the fact that your brain has bent itself out of shape in these sorts of ways from time to time.

But we of the Bad Brains forget the flip side of this – the Very Important First Part of the quote above: We have the ability to think ourselves out of these corners and around these obstacles. Is it usually harder to un-think our thinking? You bet your sweet shiny ass it is. But can it be done? Oh fuck yes.

Here’s a reminder, written as much for myself as it is for others, on how to find the exits in the unproductive mazes that our brains get lost in:

  1. Speak. Use your words. Out loud. Even if you don’t have words yet. Just keep spitting out words until you find some. Eventually, you’ll even find the right ones. Just talk. Even if no one is listening (the universe is listening, by the way. And it’s not as weird as it sounds). When thoughts sit inside your brain, they just rot inside of your head-holes. Let them flow out of your mouth.
  2. Go somewhere else. Physically remove yourself from the space you are in. Go in another room. Concentrate on your steps to the other place. When you get there, observe the new place. Ah, these ceiling tiles are a slightly less-depressing shade of beige! The carpet tiles have a perpendicular pattern! Ideally, though, go outside and get some fresh goddamned air. Just five minutes. Fuck, even less than that can work sometimes. Unless you’re adjacent to, I don’t know, a large coal-fed fire – breathe deeply. Open your eyes wide. Look at nature-things, not people-things.
  3. Make human contact. Oh no she didn’t! Listen, y’all. I’m a High-Grade, Super-Octane, Level 34, Double Platinum People Avoider. So I KNOW this ain’t for everybody. But – and you’re gonna have to take my word for it here, I know – make human contact. Like, when you’re standing outside and breathing fresh air, look at another human being (uh, maybe don’t stare). That’s the bare minimum that your innate social human nature requires. Depending on your emotional circumstances, feel free to step it up a notch or two: Maybe make eye contact, maybe smile, maybe nod, maybe say hello. If the out-loud talking and the fresh air have taken hold, maybe  – gasp! – call someone. But human contact guys. It’s hard sometimes but it’s worth it. that’swhatshesaidthat’swhatshesaid.
  4. Take care of yourself. I’m one of those people who cringe at the overuse of the term “self care.” To me, it’s not to be taken lightly. It’s not “hey girls! Let’s go shopping and get frappe manis!” I’m talking basic. human. needs. Are you cold? Put on warm socks. Are you warm? Roll up your sleeves. Have you showered yet today? How about a quick teeth brushing? Maybe run some floss between them pearly off-whites! I know, I know. These are some pretty basic-sounding things. I’m not even implying that you’ve reached the point where hygiene becomes an afterthought. I’m just saying – regardless of your circumstances, you can’t help but feel a bit better when your body temperature is regulated and you’ve run a comb through your hair or re-tied your ponytail.

Honestly? I think one of the most important things you can do it remember that it ain’t just you. You are not alone. Your brains really aren’t all bad. Hell, even if amoebas are chomping through your gray matter – there’s some good Swiss cheese left around the holes, right?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to spend some time thinking about just what the hell a frappe-mani would entail.

Sunshine Daydreams, or: I Do Not Thank the Lord For the Nighttime.

I am a light-craving person. I am happiest and most at ease in bright, well-lit rooms and on sunny days. When the sun goes down, so does my mood. I am the most anxious, emotional, depressed, etc; at dusk – and beyond.

This time of year is hard for me. And I cringe saying that, because I don’t like making myself sound like some Special Fucking Snowflake with outrageous Needs requiring Special Attention. Because I do feel that way, whenever I admit to myself that something is not quite right with me. I feel a pathological, desperate need to follow this up with a BUT OF COURSE SO MANY PEOPLE FEEL THIS WAY for fear that someone who feels worse than I will take offense to my statements.

I’ve been told by so many people for my entire life how lucky and blessed I am (and I heartily agree, don’t get me wrong). SOMEONE ELSE ALWAYS HAS IT WORSE is probably engraved into my dura mater at this point. And while that phrase has often brought me comfort, at times like this it makes me feel worse. To feel bad for feeling bad is just about the polar opposite of feeling comforted.

I feel like I owe everyone with whom I’ve interacted lately – work, home, in line at the grocery store – a big fat apology. I want to tell them that I am sorry, that I know that I could be so much better at being human. And that was the original intent of this post: I FEEL LIKE I’VE BEEN REALLY SHITTY LATELY AND I AM WRACKED WITH GUILT THINKING ABOUT IT I AM SO SORRY PLEASE DO NOT HATE ME, WORLD.

But in a flicker of normal brain activity, I decided to make this an explanation instead. Not an excuse, not some mea culpa, just a simple reason for why I’ve felt (and acted) off lately.

It’s dark outside a lot right now. And the chemistry that makes me a living, breathing person is calibrated in favor of light. So until it readjusts itself, I will not feel like myself 100% of the time. That is all. Thank you for putting up with me listening.

Things I’ve said to my cat this weekend.

I had a three-day weekend, and it has been full of productivity and adventure (not sarcasm!). Between scenic hikes and finally crossing a few items off the ol’ to-do list, though, there’s been some down time. Down time that I’ve spent with my orange, fuzzy roommate:

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When he’s not hiding from people, this sumbitch is one hell of a Chatty Cathy. Seriously, he won’t shut up. I’ve taken to responding to him like a crazy COMPLETELY SANE person would.

Cat: Meow?
Julie: No! Tortilla chips aren’t for kitty cats!

Cat: Mrrrrroooow?
Julie: Yes, the vacuuming is over. It’s safe to come out.

Cat: MOW!
Julie: IT’S 4 AM. IT IS NOT WAKEY TIME. IT IS SLEEPY TIME. GO AWAY.

Cat: Merp?
Julie: Oh, I’m sorry. I had to move your mouse while I vacuumed. Here it is.

Julie: Where’s my itty bitty kitty?
Cat: *silence*

the healing powers of intentional hypochondria.

I’m sick, I think. By this time tomorrow, I’ll be feeling miserable.

Maybe my throat is sore, or my nose is sniffly, or I feel a twinge of unusual exhaustion. Something leads my brain to think that illness is quickly setting in, and I despair.

But here’s the thing: it never happens. Every time I think to myself I think I’m getting sick, I just… don’t.

One would think that I would have caught on to this mind trick by now, but I sure have not. Instead, whenever I actually do become ill, it seems to come from nowhere. BAM. SICK. GO TO BED NOW.

The last time I was truly ill (not counting miscellaneous tummy aches or runny noses), I was taken off-guard by how taken off-guard I was. One day, my eyes were super itchy. The next day, I could barely speak. I don’t know if the two are related – I doubt itchy eyes are a symptom of pneumonia, but I shudder to think that I somehow rubbed some germs into my eyes and that’s how I got sick. Ew.

Regardless, my point is this: I wondered this morning if I get into the habit of telling myself I have terrible diseases, if that would somehow ward them off from me entirely.

Though I suppose I think I’m getting cancer isn’t the best mantra, eh?

 

 

traveler’s mania.

Part of the allure of traveling – be it a day trip to a neighboring town or a cross-country adventure – is the ability to briefly assume the lifestyle of another. Walking or taking transit instead of driving everywhere (or vice versa, depending on what you’re used to), trying new types of restaurants or attractions, socializing with your friends’ friends – it’s all so wonderful.

I just got back from a quick 3-day trip to New England to visit my brother and his girlfriend. While there, I racked up monstrous daily step totals, ate the freshest, most delicious seafood, tried other new gastronomical delights, was crammed into a train and elbowed my way out (ok, so that’s very much an exaggeration) and just generally had a fantastic time.

Talk about refreshing. I’ve returned mentally energized and ready to basically take on the entire damn world.

That’s all I got for now!

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For your consideration: a picture of my baby brudder taking a picture of the foliage.

too blocked to think of a catchy title.

They – they who? – say that when you –  you who? – are faced with the dreaded Writer’s Block to just power through. Sit right damn down and just fucking write. Anything. Everything. Just scribble out what comes into your head. Remember that conversation you had with the lady in the grocery store line a few days ago? The bits and pieces of a dream you had last night? The snappy one-liner you shot off with ease the other day? Write it out, bitch.

They – seriously, who the hell are they? – make it sound oh-so-easy. Like you – wait, is that me? – have unlimited access to some sort of great Brain Tap of words and thoughts and ideas. Turn it on and let ‘er go, fellas, and be prepared for a deluge of brilliance! They – these people are starting to piss me off – play it off like you – quit talking about me! – will flood the page or screen with metric tons of words and will be able to easily pick out the salvageable bits and use them to create Epic Works. Cast a wider net, they – go to hell! – say! You – seriously, leave me out of this – are bound to catch hold of something great!

Well, they. I’ve got some news from me. I’m going through that particular pile of brain garbage and rusty scrap metal and all I’ve got to show for it are used ideas and mental tetanus. I was planning on sharing my haul with this wider audience but I’m afraid all I’ll do is spread disappointment like… [see below*]

 

*choose-your-own ending!
…like gonorrhea in Utah!
…like mayonnaise on a Subway sandwich!
…like news of Frank Sinatra’s imminent departure for New York, New York.
…wildfire (Seriously? This one? DUD ALERT)

 

Tagged

Grocerying is a word now.

Grocery shopping is very much a hit-or-miss kind of deal with me. My body must be just the right level of hungry; if I’ve just eaten or feel full then my purchases will include almost all non-food items. If I’m ravenously hungry my cart will be filled with Cheez-its of every variety and more chicken than my freezer can physically accommodate.

It’s a mental game, too: If I’m tired I rush through the aisles and forget important things, such as Everything On My List. If I’m cranky, minor setbacks send me spiraling off into an angry oblivion and I’m liable to storm out of the store with nothing while mumbling to myself. WHO THE FUCK PUTS POPCORN IN THE CEREAL AISLE? LIKE HELL I’M GOING BACK THERE TO GET IT NOW!

Ooh, ooh! Or! If I’ve just spent an inordinate amount of time on, say, Pinterest, then I end up with very specific ingredients to a half-dozen intricate meals and/or desserts that I have no time to prepare or bake and I’m asking myself six months later why the hell I bought lemon extract.

All this, and you’d think that I have some sort of elaborate mental ritual in order to prepare myself for a visit my local supermarket. Nah, fuck that. I just go and leave the rest to chance. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be a good day: I’ll remember my list and my coupons and remember to actually give  my coupons to the cashier and I’ll come home and have food – real food! Not just Pop-Tarts and strawberry jelly!

Well maybe Pop-Tarts. Let’s not get crazy here.

Okay. Off to get my grocerying done! Suck it, Noah Webster!

 

 

 

Damnit, Phyllis.

I spoke to a Very Angry Person on the phone at work a few nights ago. And while she was not irrationally, wtf lady angry, she also was not accepting my information, apologies and suggestions. I was at a loss – one of those times when I was genuinely stuck as to resolving her problem and was fumbling and inarticulate on the phone. It was a terrible, diarrheal shit fuck of a situation and at the end of our conversation came a dreadful, soul-crushing pause.

“I see. And you said your name was Phyllis?”

I at once wanted to laugh (Phyllis? How did she hear Phyllis?), sigh (complaint naming me specifically a’comin!), and rage (I was nice to you, lady. I didn’t have to be. But I fucking was). Instead, I ended the conversation, scraped this little encounter off the top of my conscious mind, and slathered it onto the shit cake I’ve been baking in that hot, angry place deep inside of me.

And instead of detaching myself from it, I retracted into that particular hole and threw myself in, funeral-pyre style, so that I could self-immolate in my misery and gorge myself on my perceived failures and shortcomings as a human person. I let it blind me to everyone else: me! me! me! I am miserable! I am the worst! Nobody likes me! Guess I’ll go eat worms!

One three-minute conversation is not to blame for this, of course. I am not myself these days.* In the past days, weeks, months (?), to those whom I’ve seemingly ignored, blown off or acted anything less than warmly toward, I am sorry. I have recently been reminded that I am never, not ever, alone in this world and am taking itty-bitty-baby steps to straighten out my sometimes neuro-chemically-confused head. In short: It’s not you, it’s me.

But I still blame Phyllis.

 

 

*With apologies to Josh Kilmer-Purcell, from whose memoir I stole this line. You should read it. I’ll lend you my copy. It’s very, very good.

Pokémon or IKEA product?

  1. MARILL
  2. WERNA
  3. VOLMAR
  4. LOTAD
  5. PRINPLUP
  6. EKBY
  7. UTTER
  8. NUMEL
  9. FLYTTA
  10. HOPPIG
  11. RABALDER
  12. INGO
  13. SALANDIT
  14. VENONAT
  15. ODDA
  16. QUILAVA
  17. JOLTIK
  18. MAGNARP
  19. INKAY
  20. CILLA
  21. ROTOM
  22. DRACAENA
  23. BELDUM
  24. OSHAWATT
  25. LILLABO
  26. BLADIS
  27. ANTILOP
  28. HOPPIP
  29. TURBO
  30. URSARING
  31. ABRA
  32. CLEFFA
  33. NUTID
  34. JONILL
  35. EKANS
  36. KLEFKI
  37. GULDPALM
  38. WINGULL
  39. SPARKA
  40. PAJMIX

POKEA

 

Answers in comments

The Rev. Dr. Hon. Douche McBag, J.D., Esq.

Here’s a question for yas: If you have some kind of title associated with your profession/education, do you include it on things like your credit card, library card, return address labels, etc;? I’m torn on this.

When someone’s name pops up at work and it includes the “Dr.” in front of it, I immediately think this person is a pretentious asshat. Really, dude? You took the time to include that when you filled out your information? And then when I call them and they answer “This is Dr. Blah-de-Blah” and rage bells go off in my head and I think CHANGE YOUR OWN GOTDAM TIRE, DOUCHE-O-DOUCHEY.

Of course this person could be a perfectly sane, not pretentious, human person. I could be calling a number he gives out for work-related purposes. He could be just super-extra proud of his accomplishment (I think of everyone I know personally who’s got a PhD or been through medical/dental/vet/law school and how freaking ecstatic they – rightly – are once that degree was in their hands. Hell yeah, I’d be asking people to call me Doctor too, after years of torment!).

There’s not really a point to this. I’m just sort of expelling my own biases here.