Losing your executive functions doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t make you less intelligent (well, maybe a little), and doesn’t seem to change the personality dramatically…but it is a pain in the ass. Sometimes a mild pain in the ass. Sometimes catastrophic….though you don’t really notice until one of the catastrophes hits you. Part of it is the time thing I keep talking about. I mean you retain your 24 hour sense of time–that seems to go much deeper than all the fancy brainage humans have laid on over the eons. Hell, plants have that sense of time. It’s the calendar you lose track of. That’s an add on we probably developed tens of thousands of years ago. Maybe earlier. It’s up there in the frontal lobe, apparently, and the parts of my frontal lobe that used to do wonders with calendars (and Microsoft Office and scheduling for a dozen bosses and complex multi-tasking and writing a weekly column for a major paper and never missing an issue in seven years) has been worn away by too much electro-chemical energy. (That’s what epilepsy is: too much electro-chemical energy.) But even more of a hassle is my inability to focus on things. Shit doesn’t get done. I am utterly mystified as to why it isn’t getting done. I have tried a zillion techniques to remind me that shit isn’t getting done. But the end result is shit not getting done. Even my writing has changed and all I seem to write are brief vignettes, snippets, small little essays. It’s pretty writing, sure, but it’s impossibly short. What can you do with it? But that’s how I think anymore, with (to quote our president) a few exceptions. But what especially disturbs me lately is that I can’t seem to focus on books. I was always the type that started a book and finished it in a few days or a couple weeks if it was long and turgid and dull, but I always finished it. Lately it takes forever, and I don’t always finish. I’m working on that too. I have so many books to read. I’m not making a lot of progress. Still, life is pleasant. It shouldn’t be, because actually everything is hopelessly fucked up, two brain damaged people incapable of doing what adults need to be able to do to survive in a complex world, but it’s never been more pleasant. We have friends who look out for us, and we keep life simple and spare. I get up and write. She reads. We watch old movies. She walks back from Trader Joes with a few groceries, some flowers and a snack. She makes dinner. I wash the dishes. It’s a daily routine but doesn’t feel that way since every day is completely new. Very little stress. Very little contact with the outside world. You look at people on the short bus and they always seem to be smiling and laughing.
(written a couple years ago….)
It’s Friday morning, and here’s the old people medical news, plus a ten pen cent discount. Good article in AARP magazine about the meds you take and why you can’t remember anything. Luckily for me both my anti-seizure drugs (that sounds much nicer than anti-convulsants) are listed so now I have twice the excuse for not remembering your name or what I promised or where I am. Plus the good thing is that I have twice the excuse for not remembering your name or what I promised or where I am. And here’s an article about the meds you take and why you can’t remember anything. Thank god it’s Thursday. Or Tuesday. Though it doesn’t look like Belgium. Or Weld, for that matter. And I read somewhere that some meds affect your memory.
I was going to say something.
Memory! That’s it. And you thought I couldn’t remember anything.
There’s nothing like accidentally posting a random collection of notes to your blog and then having to go into all the social media sites and deleting it. This didn’t happen when this stuff was all analog, with an analog pen and analog paper and analog edits and analog scratching out and analog illegibility. Not to mention the lost art of margin doodling. Times were simpler then. Messier, but simpler. I almost miss ink stained hands.
I have a whole box full of analog words like that. Page after analog page. I like looking at the edits. The sentences lined out and rewritten in the margins.The paragraphs lifted up and dropped onto a whole other page. Sometimes there are entire pages scratched out that I really like now. This was a much younger brain, I wonder what it thought when it saw this stuff. And this was before email, before instant messages, before texting and tweets and Facebook posts. Before the comments sections on news sites. Before blogging. This was a different universe. In that universe none of you people would be reading this. In fact none of you would have read anything I wrote unless you picked up a West Coast Review of Books or an obscure rock zine or two.
But that universe was pure creativity, a lab, a mass of failure, the occasional gem. Rhymes even. Certainly a lot of epilepsy. I keep thinking I ought to drag that box out of the closet and zap some of that stuff into the digital universe. But there’s so much. It’s a helluva lot of work, transcribing. And it feels weird going back in time like that. You begin to feel the way you felt decades and decades ago. That fresh, unwrinkled skin. The raging testosterone. The stupidity, on one hand, and then all those brain cells long since gone. What would it feel to be dropped into my twenty-five year old body with a brain a quarter again as big as mine now? Would it be noticeable? How could it not be? Like moving into a sprawling ranch house from a two bedroom apartment. All this snuggly comfort would be gone in all those rooms, but think of the views you’d have. Views you’d given up as your life got smaller, narrower, quieter. Even if the brain is only 15% smaller in volume, there are all sorts of synaptic paths you’ve abandoned. Like that big ranch house full of nooks and crannies you no longer use. A back door you haven’t opened in decades. The kids’ room, left as it was. A garage stacked with inaccessible boxes full of things you forgot you ever had. Neurons have settled into comfortable patterns. Some are passed by, ignored. Some have drifted into other areas of responsibility. Much has been sorted into piles, some you need, and some like those boxes in the garage. You just don’t get excited about so much anymore, not like you did when you were in your twenties, because your brain is so set in its sensory and concept reception ways. It’s gotten comfortable, in sort of the cognitive equivalent of a favorite chair, watching old movies.
Our brains are at the maximum size in our twenties…after that the brain doesn’t bother replacing the cells–neurons and glia both–it doesn’t think are necessary. We don’t have a choice, it does it for us, it economizes. Such a shame. We’ll never know exactly what we’ve lost, but we know we lost something. I lost all those analog thoughts and memories. I’d love to have them back. Or maybe I don’t. Digital is easier, editing so simple. Mistakes so easily hidden. Things, worthless or not, so easy to save. I guess that’s a good thing.
So I’ll put off pulling out that box again and live in the now. It’s easier that way. As much as I reminisce about the analog universe, this digital one is much easier, while it lasts. Civilization is on the cusp of the next step. You can feel it. Something beyond this even, something beyond the written word. And people like me will be museum pieces then. Historical oddities. We wrote. You what? Wrote. What was that? This. That? Yeah this. Why?
Why? I have no idea why. We just did.