Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pinball Wizard

No fun/gross pictures today, so I thought I'd try a stream of consciousness exercise (with links and spontaneous edits added later). A number of people in my brain injury support group have memory issues, usually short-term. On the whole that's an area I've been fortunate. I do find I need to take notes during meetings for reference later and also to remind myself of things I want to contribute at the moment, in part to keep myself from blurting them out and interrupting others. My short-term memory is limited pretty much to six digits, which I often need to recall in my work. But there's no saying how much of that is stroke and how much is simply getting older. I do find my thoughts can be pretty scattered, but I also kind of enjoy the act of tracing one idea to the next and the memories encountered along the way. So enjoy the roller coaster ride with me.

I can't do this sort of free-association writing without thinking of the Late, Great Tina Lane (née Tina Sabina), my high school creative writing teacher. Ms. Lane would periodically end class by having us take the last 10 or 15 minutes for a Professor Corey. Aside from being an enthusiastic educator, Ms. Lane (ex-sister-in-law of Nathan Lane) was a free spirit who always encouraged us to stretch out and discover things about ourselves and the world which we might otherwise overlook. It was with her that I began journaling (mostly in spiral notebooks I collected while visiting prospective colleges), in a series I titled simply, Life, followed by sequential Roman numerals. They began as observation journals, with the intent of collecting details which might later be useful in stories but quickly devolved into diaries. In many ways, they were my first blogs. I captured much of my adolescent drama on those pages and continued writing there through the late 90s. This weekend I actually went back and read what I'd written in 1997, during a particularly fervent period of twentysomething romantic angst. I generally haven't traced back my history in this way, but my parents mentioned they had recently found some of my older notebooks (probably circa 1986)and will return them to me in August; so I was curious to take a glance at the ones I currently have in my possession. What I found is that I really haven't changed all that much -- internally -- in the past 20 years or so, which is both comforting and disconcerting. Ms. Lane always told me she thought I would end up in some sort of creative work, no matter what industry. I suppose that has been true for me – I need to bring some sort of creative energy to what I do in order to find it interesting, despite the fact that my right hemisphere is supposedly one's creative side and is currently out of order. The struggles I've had with creative writing over the years generally stem from egotism (either too much or too little). They always say, "Write what you know." I think the fact that I didn't write for a long time was that I didn't think I knew about anything and had anything to say. This could certainly explain why my most fruitful writing has taken place in the first person and – especially in the case of this blog – is about my experience with my lead up to and recovery from brain injury. If there's one thing I feel comfortable saying I know, it's my self. I don't know if I believe anything else is truly knowable. Though it worries me a little that I'm a one-trick pony, or that I'm doomed to be a schlimazel. I fear the same fate for Tig Notaro, though she's far more brilliant than I and has done more with the soup spilled on her than I could ever hope to.

Back to my Life journals – I think I stopped writing in them for a period in the early 90s because my English girlfriend, Gillian, didn't seem to understand my drive toward introspection. Not that I should have let that stop me, but it was my greatest goal at the time to get her to understand and appreciate me, despite my inherently-, overly-open Americanicity.

Uh oh. For some reason I've now hit a dam in my stream, perhaps from recalling Gillian's lack of patience for and my self-consciousness about this sort of self-indulgent excursion through the wrinkles of my mind. It may be somewhat amusing for me, but I can't imagine that fulfilling for anyone else. Though I do recommend you play this game of pinball with your own brain . How can you not? That's why I'm no good at meditation: I have to follow my thoughts wherever they lead me. I think especially because of my stroke, I find it comforting to see that my brain can still take the ride and not simply shut down or block out the world.

This feels like an end to this particular trip, but I don't feel like I've ricocheted around enough to call the exercise a success. Or should I just put you out of your misery? I don't know exactly what I hoped to discover or reveal or accomplish here that would be worth your while; I'm not big on holding on too tightly to hopes or expectations, since they rarely live up to themselves, but I don't feel like I'm there yet. Okay, there's the stuff. Now I've jumped the track from that last sentence to whatever I took away from our high school analysis of The Scarlet Letter – how Nathaniel Hawthorne presented a speech by minister Arthur Dimmesdale (wow, i can't believe I remembered his name!) as the most-inspiring sermon ever given by never actually writing the words for his readers to "hear". So just imagine that this blog entry was incredibly profound and revelatory.

1 comment :

  1. I'm not really keen on that whole 'write what you know' thing. As far as I can tell, most of my favourite books never would have been written if everyone followed that rule. The trick is taking something that you do know (an emotion, a relationship, a dream) and transforming it into something you don't.

    At the same time, your memoir writing is fascinating, so it's definitely working for you.