I’ve been thinking a lot about thoughts. And brain activity. And butterflies, the kind that doesn’t come too close to your face and get all up in your personal space.
Yep, welcome to my brain.
Most peoples’ brains jog throughout the day, stopping to rest for a bit, and then they start jogging again. Or maybe power walking. Or maybe just walking. It depends.
A news headline here, a sports game there, and probably a project at work over yonder.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
The world needs all kinds.
My brain, however, didn’t get that memo. It runs a series of 100-meter dashes, laid end to end, all day, and probably all night. In what is probably a strange example of black and white thinking, my brain is under the strange impression that if it’s not actively dashing, it’s sloughing off.
The 100-meter dashes themselves involve impossible topics with a constellation of details, like human biochemistry, the mysteries of the universe, and the dichotomies of life (there’ll be a post on my “other blog” coming up about that), while playing a song and generating ideas.
It’s nothing special. I’m not even sure it’s a good thing. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, either. But it has its drawbacks.
Because it slims down the potential candidates for friendship; most people can’t relate to someone who speaks biochemistry but pays no attention to the news headlines. It’s just not “normal”.
And also because my brain doesn’t know how to relax. Even during my “downtime”, I’m writing a blog post or a poetry piece in my head, gazing at the sky, remembering a past life, coming up with an oddball theory, making movie references, and trying to learn (and absorb) something new, all while my mental jukebox plays a random alternative song from the ’90s.
Maybe I really can multitask after all?
Hell if I know.
People with beautiful intentions gently suggest that I slow down a little, that I take plenty of time for myself.
But see, that’s the problem. All that activity and chaos I just described is what happens during my downtime, when I take time for myself.
I can’t win (lol).
During my work day, I’m sifting through research findings, assimilating them into resources I can clinically use, fending off office questions, and trying to resist the urge to check in on my online life, lest I get more behind in my work.
At night, I can finally relax. And surf the medical journal archives. And watch an educational TV show. And bat around movie references with my partner.
Oh wait–I’m supposed to be relaxing? I’m not sure if I even know what that is. My brain goes a little berserk when I try to slow it down.
My brain has a brain of its own, and it does what it wants to do, when it wants to do it. It has its own agenda and its own schedule. It won’t listen to me.
Logically, I know I need to slow down and relax, but when I try, I just become less relaxed.
How does that even work?
Hell if I know.
Most peoples’ brains shut down slowly. They feel themselves starting to get tired, to wind down, to settle in. A lovely blanket of fog creeps in. The haze descends, and they gradually fall asleep.
It sounds lovely. Absolutely sublime.
That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway. I’ve observed and listened enough to know.
My brain, on the other hand, didn’t get that memo, either.
My brain works like a cell/mobile phone battery. It functions on full bore, whether it’s fully charged, or minimally charged. Until–poof!–it’s “dead”.
Sometimes this happens when my body is still awake. I stumble around, practically mute, and couldn’t answer questions about my name.
Or, I’ll be engaged in an activity. I’ll engage and engage, until my brain finally disengages.
It’s only at that point that I can fall asleep. I basically pass out in the middle of a fury of mental activity.
It’s amusingly sudden. My partner, if he’s awake when this happens, gets a kick out of it. He says he hears the clicking of my laptop keyboard and track pad, and the sub-comments from my peanut gallery that pull references from about 25 movies (that’s a conservative number; usually it’s higher)…
…and then suddenly, everything stops. He looks back toward me, only to find that I’ve conked out cold.
Gingerly, he stops the DVD or program we were watching, turns down the TV volume, leaves everything on–the TV, the cable box, and the lamp on the end table–and silently drifts off toward the bedroom.
I sleep on the couch. It’s just where I fall. I haven’t slept in bed for years. At least since 2012.
It’s not ideal, but it is what it is, and I’ve made peace with it. I have my routine. I have all I need in a small, familiar space. The cats even come visit me when I’m awake, glad that someone’s up to cuddle with them.
Someday, I would like to know what it’s like to relax. To turn off. To wind down, to go through the stages that spurred the phrases like “sandman”. I would like to feel my eyelids get heavy. I would like to feel that body blanket cover me slowly. I would like my brain to read the human physiology textbooks sometime, and actually mirror what they say.
I’m good at mirroring, but my brain is not.
Hyperfocus can be a blessing, and it can also be a curse. Not everything is black and white, eh? There are bright and dark sides at every turn, or at least, at many turns.
Maybe someday, my brain will wind down like a “normal” brain does. Mine used to do that, so I know that it’s possible for me. But it hasn’t been able to do this in a long time. I was born with different wiring, which then, subsequently, got re-wired. It is now more hypervigilant than ever.
Until then, I work my brain’s mobile battery down to the end, every night, until it shuts off.
Sometimes that’s 11pm. Other times, it’s 5am. No hour of the day is sacred.
But hey–this means that if you’re insomniac, too, you’ve got an overnight friend!