Compartments of My Brain

I’ve noticed that there are sections of my “brain” or thought area. It became very clear when I began playing games with my Echo Dot’s “Alexa.”

There is one game in particular where I do this. It’s called Animal Letters, where you take turns saying the names of animals that begin with a designated letter of the alphabet. For instance, if you are given the letter A, Alexa will start by saying something like “Aardvark” and I’ll respond as quickly as I can with “Anaconda.”

When I’m having trouble choosing an animal or coming up with names that haven’t been said already, I find myself searching through my mental filing cabinet. In the top left area are the raptors: hawks, eagle, raptors, etc. In the middle left are snakes and bottom left is where the bugs creep and crawl around. In the middle are small mammals, like groundhogs, chipmunks and badgers. In the lower middle are big cats. In the upper middle are sea creatures. Upper right contains apes, chimps, etc. Middle right has birds, and lower right has things like lemurs, duck-billed platypuses, etc.

Barnyard animals are in the middle – somewhere near the small mammals. Various types of goats, deer, antelope, etc are in the upper left next to the raptors. Then there are pets – dogs and cats – who are way over to the far right, separate, and special.

It’s actually kind of cool to rifle through the mental files. I picture my back yard a lot – the birds in the big oak to the right of my yard, the moles and mice in the middle of my yard and bugs creeping around the lower spots next to the pine tree and lilac bushes. Bees buzz around over there too.

I wonder if I do this with other thoughts, without knowing it. After some thought, I can see more clearly.

Childhood memories are packed away in my mind – the happy ones on the front porch, and the not so great ones under my bed. Memories of Amber are everywhere, surrounding my heart, close, cozy and sometimes melancholy.

Memories of loved ones past, like my grandpa and my favorite old dog Happy – they are like a cozy shawl I wrap around my shoulders once in awhile.

Memories of my youth, falling in love with my dear husband, and our early years as a couple, dating, marrying, adventuring in the Army together, those are smack dab in the center of my heart, where I tuck them away under my old Michael Jackson jacket, and bring them out for fun once in awhile.

Memories of people who’ve done me wrong, of hurts and wounds I’ve suffered, those are shoved away in a drawer, under lock and key. When they escape, I shove them back after awhile of brooding with them, and praying to let go.

What is hard to do is remain in the present, and to enjoy the days and minutes I have going forward. I have to shove past the jungle of past memories, but, I’m reaching out more and more to make new memories.

I really have to fight to be happy, unlike what many people assume based on some responses I’ve gotten over the years when I post something positive on Facebook. So many think it’s easy for me to be positive, that I have some sort of charmed life. I have had a great life. I am thankful for it. But, like most people, it hasn’t been easy. There’ve been more than a few times when all I wanted to do was give up. All I wanted, was release from despair and the overwhelming sadness and grief I’ve borne. Believe me when I tell you it isn’t easy.

But, it’s worth it. I never want to give in to the weight of sadness and just throw in the towel. I’m stubborn. So for me, I really have to work to meditate on the good, beautiful things of life and believe that in the end, goodness wins – love wins.

I do not hide my head from the evils of the world or the suffering of others. In fact, my tendency is to take on the pain and suffering of others in an attempt to not deal with my own. But, I have learned this: I am not the only person on the Earth who cares, or who can help others. I am only one person – and I only have to take up the things I can carry, the things that I can do to help others and then join with people who want to help too. And, then, I have to put these pains and struggles – which are vast, deep and very real – into a belt of Truth around my waist. I can carry them without taking them in and making them all-consuming.

And, I cannot let bitterness and anger become my default setting. I just cannot. I don’t have the capacity to poison myself with these things. They hurt too much. So, the brain in me shoves them away when other people try to foist them onto me. But, I feel the weight still, even with the expressions of anger I see. Anger and I haven’t figured each other out yet. Yes, I do get angry. No, I don’t always know what to do with it. And, I avoid it as much as possible in other people. It’s an extremely uncomfortable emotion. But, I’m learning here too.

I am learning that everyone who is angry, is not angry at me. And, I’m learning that many times, when someone is angry with me, it’s not really anything to do with me. It’s often something they’re feeling from another source, but I happen to be around, or I bump into them while they’re carrying that load and it splashes out on me. But, if I’m aware, I can shake it off and maybe even help the person see that I’m not against them. I’m not everyone’s therapist, I’ve said that a few times to various folks who seem to want to dump all of their anger and venom at me because I have cared about them in the past. At some point, I have to say, “I care, but I cannot handle your emotions for you. You have to find a way to deal with them besides pouring them all over me. I refuse to take that load anymore.”

And, if people don’t like the lines I’ve drawn around myself, really, that is not my problem – it’s theirs. Ultimately, I am not responsible for the emotions, or the care, of other grown people. I have to do my best to help folks, but, I don’t have to lay down and let them wipe their feet on me. I can’t do that. I’ve done it too many times and it sucks. I refuse to do it again, though often I find myself throwing myself on the ground before I remember that I don’t belong there.

In the end, it is each person’s responsibility (at least, each person who is able) to take care of their own feelings and pain. I go to therapy. I take medication. I pray. And, I share with people who support me. But, I don’t make them responsible for my happiness. Often, they help a LOT, and I’m thankful. But, they cannot “fix” me and I cannot “fix” anyone else. That’s ok. We can walk together in the brokenness and let our unique and crazy light shine through.

So, I’m tucking these thoughts into the compartment that is writing – a very good way to deal with thoughts and feelings – and I share them. Because I think there may be other people who struggle too (in fact, I know there are.) So, here you go. Know you’re not alone. Know that you can keep going and that there is help. Each person can lighten the load of the other, even if we cannot carry the entire burden.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just take the next step toward healing. Here, grab my hand. I’m holding on tight to the person ahead of me.