I haven’t been around here for a while. I’ve been busy doing this and that, and sometimes not much at all. But when a writer gets a gift, they have to take it. Today, I received one in the form of a writing prompt.
Did you know it has been 20 years since the decade of the brain? The Decade of the Brain, from 1990 – 1999, was an initiative by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health “to enhance public awareness of the benefits to be derived from brain research.”
I started reading The Opposite of Certainty, a memoir by Janine Urbaniak Reid, because it’s another story about someone with a brain tumor. This time it was the author’s young son. I’m an astrocytoma survivor and I think I’ve read every book there is on brain tumors trying to find myself in the story. Even as I tried, I never quite found the same story, until now.
A few months ago I wrote about how I was struggling as many were with quarantine brain and the only antidote was activities that put me in a state of flow. Even though life has returned a bit to normal and I am going out a little more, including to a few stores and a few restaurants, I’m still finding that activities hands-on activities are enjoyable. One new one recently has been making mosaics.
As a writer, words are important to me. I usually write quickly, but still choose my words carefully. When I type, my cursor usually doesn’t just go one way. It goes forward and backward as I write and rewrite, making sure to choose the words I really want to say. When I choose the wrong word, I pick another one.
In the wake of the uprisings following George Floyd’s death, words matter more than ever. A group of artists are showing that now in an area hit by destruction.
Just as the pandemic was beginning in February, my husband and I traveled to Laos and Cambodia. It seems like a lifetime ago now when there was so much uncertainty. As we talked to local drivers and tour guides, they talked about this potential threat. As a driver took us to the airport through the teeming streets of Siem Reap, Cambodia, to the outskirts where it seemed the hotels just stopped, he spoke about what it could do to his livelihood if tourism was affected.
A few weeks ago I saw an article on the elephants in Thailand returning to their homes from tourists camps with no visitors. Without tourists, the locals are suffering and do not have the money to pay for the land, the food, and the salaries of those who work there.
Speech class was part of my high school curriculum. Our teacher made her grading system clear. I don’t remember how speeches were graded, though probably some mix of content and performance. What sticks in my mind after all these years, were the consequences for not preparing your speech. If you missed a speech, you received 20 zeroes.
I finished reading Theft by Finding by David Sedaris recently. This book of the famous writer’s diary entries from 1977 – 2002, was exactly what my brain could handle during coronavirus isolation time. I didn’t have to carry plot along with me from page to page. If I grew tired of reading, I could quit in the middle of page. Also, since I’m not writing much, reading the diary of a famous writer during the quarantine is perfect since it reminds me of all the things I can’t write, right now and how famous writers struggle sometimes too.
I figured out what my brain is like right now. It is like a rock on the banks of a fast-running stream. Leaves, twigs, branches, logs, even fish and birds pass by, but I have no way of catching them. So, I don’t go anywhere, but still I race after them. It is exhausting to go nowhere, but still be scurrying.
I am still unsettled. I thought I might feel better as this pandemic progressed, but now five weeks into staying at home to flatten the curve, I still feel as if I could always use a few good deep breaths.
This week our governor extended our stay-at-home order to May 26. When I heard it, I felt a mix of emotions. I felt a little down because it meant life as I expected it would not be returning for another five weeks. But I also felt a little relief. At least we had a deadline to look forward to.
We were halfway through. It made me think about what I had done in the first half of being at home. And what I might do in the next.