There is an old English proverb that says, “An idle mind is the Devil’s workshop.” I will never be a member of that trade union, my mind is rarely idle. Even intoxicated, it runs at breakneck speed. Most of the time, things hum along smoothly. Now, ask any other person to step into the Winston cup track of my mind, and they will be overwhelmed, especially on turn 4. Most of the time, when I run with other people, I add a restrictor plate. It slows my mind down. It is like taking a 78 rpm record and playing it at 33. That plate comes off in a few situations:
- the buzz of alcohol (a single martini will do)
- proximity to another person whose mind paces as mine
- extreme, negative emotional fluctuations.
Let’s just say…..don’t make me angry and don’t force me into a corner. Fury crystallizes my mental clarity and I will pace 10-15 moves ahead of you. I will get the job done…just give me a few moments to have my melt down and then I am good to go.
Major malfunctions are the emotional equivalent to a transient ischemic attack. In a T.I.A., you have about 15-20 minutes of slack faced numbness and mush mouth talking. Wait, it clears up, vanishing without residue. Major malfunctions are similar. Other people can’t help. They cannot be can’t hasten. In their midst, they cannot be explained. People who truly know me know that all I want is company. Just let me rant, weep, jabberjaw and pace….and in about 30 minutes all is resolved and I will have a plan. And it is a plan that will work. Trouble arises when someone steps into the major malfunction and wants to know WHY? What’s wrong? They deem the process absurd and want you to just snap out of it! It is like telling a stroke victim to stop being paralyzed and to talk clearly. It won’t happen. And repeated chastisement sows deep contempt and shows a profound lack of empathy and compassion. Could I change? Absolutely. Can I change gears in the middle of a major malfunction? No fucking way. But few people offer assistance when you are humming along like an off road Ferrari. They are perfectly content to tag along for the ride. Unbelievably, they can even get annoyed when a major malfunction happens because then they might have to DO SOMETHING……no worries….just hang tight….it passes.Just don’t bitch and moan.
But what happens when things really grind to a halt? When the T.I.A. lingers past 30 minutes? When hemipariesis blankets and the mind seizes up? There is no emotional equivalent to thromboembolic intervention. Show up to an ER with stroke symptoms and someone gives you clot busting drugs. There is no psychological equivalent to a heparin drip. The arcane practice of waiting has been the only treatment option. Accept, for people who have lots of these psychological T.I.As…..we have a plethora of anecdotal evidence. I am certain if you gathered enough of us, you’d find an we have developed effective, healthy responses.
Lesson #3: Don’t sit still. Don’t think still. When the transient major malfunction lingers, catch it early. Do not ignore the signs. There is an equivalent Golden Hour for the psyche, too…but it last a full day. If the sun comes up again and the symptoms linger….it is time to INTERVENE. These are some of the best early interventions I have found:
- personal grooming: lingering baths, tweeze your eyebrows, change the sheets on the bed, pumice the heels, moisturize the elbows. Doing a small amount of self care helps tremendously.
- declutter spaces: clear out dresser drawers, clean out closet, throw away old magazine stacked on end tables, file the important papers accumulated on the desk, run anti-viral software, delete spam, defrag…..clearer the spaces in which we live from clutter will help the mind, too. As multi-processors, we still SEE and FEEL and process every hairline crack in the ceiling.
- spring clean: clean the uncommon areas, clean the fridge, defrost the freezer, wash the windows and screens, clean out the rain gutters. All these seasonal tasks roll continuously on the To-Do list. Tackle one and it falls off the list.
- cook from scratch: cooking and baking from scratch uses real ingredients and requires THINKING. It engages you mind in a way opening a Duncan Hines box just can’t. The box of M&C fills your belly. Homemade M&C feeds your soul. There is simple, sensual pleasure in food that is REAL. Compare and contrast the spoonful of instant lemon flavored drink to home squeezed lemonade in a glass glass.Real makes a difference. And the fact that you take the tie FOR YOURSELF is powerful.
- comtemplative tasking: quilt, scrap, crochet, Tai Chi, Bonsai. The quiet, non-verbal discipline of trimming and clipping and being productive in a purely “elective” process is necessary. All of life cannot be obligatory and compulsory. We come to resent the grind of what MUST be done unless we have something that we WANT to do.
- MOVE: lie on the floor and stretch like a cat, float in the pool, ride a bike, canoe down a river, swing at the park. Feel movement in the sinew of your muscles where they attach to your skeleton. Think about the fact that you MOVE yourself all over the place. You are self-propelled.
After a few hours the paralysis regresses. Another transient episode has passed. While you could get drunk or sleep……those activities only enhance the stillness. So many people who do not have the multi-processor type mind, think that the fix is to just think LESS. Bad idea. Stillness only happens when the unit seizes up. It is like the entire eastern seaboard electrical grid failing. It can take massive externalized power ampage to get the grid back on line. My warning: don’t stop….not completely. Remember the English proverb: Satan comes after you when you idle. It is a dangerous spot. You can be easily seduced into the notion…I just need a rest. I just need OFF this ride. Don’t do it. Just switch from the roller coaster to the carousel for a bit. But don’t be still. Don’t try to silence the cacophony. Just step obliquely to the side and let the static crackle. Eventually you will move into the right area and the reception will clear and you will tune back in. Everything will come back online. And you will a good, strong signal. Can you hear me now?