Saturday, January 31, 2015

Singularity (or lack thereof)

I met my new neurologist this week and it felt like I was starting over, in good ways and bad. 
  • Good: fresh perspective, optimism
  • Bad: didn't know history, I couldn't explain it 
I wish my online-me could have been there. She is so good at expressing herself, given enough time and editing. But just regular me was there, the one who processes like a 1950's computer and looks blankly when asked a question she doesn't expect. And yet he was asked to answer this questions right away: 
  • Is there a way for me to be a competent psychologist despite lingering cognitive problems that range from small to huge
Justin Morrow's Do What You Love blog on film careers
The sorry truth is that I've avoided this question day in and day out and focused on recovery, and told myself I'd figure out work later. So it's later, and I'm in the middle of the endgame at my job. Can't go back to my old work life because my brain can't keep up with that pace. Not sure how to go forward but am getting nudged--okay, shoved--by practicalities into motion. So, the question is out there. Which way do you want to go instead?

Hmm. Can you come back to me after everyone else orders?

Problem solving and decision making are no longer my forte, and herein lies the dilemma. I had a vision last week of all the "big answers" I'm searching for being balloons filled on one side of my brain and sent floating to the other side where they're needed. I can jump and bump them with my fingers, but that just sends them sailing further out of reach. 

From Development Crossroads
group coaching

Because since the concussion that put me out of work (and probably since the one before that), the balloons have no strings. I used to walk into my mental "answer" room and simply choose the best solutions. Grab a few, try them out. Discard one, go back for a couple more. Tie a couple together and see if they flew. 

Now? I couldn't choose one even if I could grasp them. My brain reacts, but doesn't plan, and shuts down when I try to process too much or analyze something complex. All I can do is simple. 

Unfortunately, simple is sometimes hard too.  

We all know people who go on retelling stories and after about 2 minutes you're mentally begging for them to get to the point. Books are the same. You get bonus points as a writer for making the theme subtle, but even obvious themes like "life is short, don't waste a day" are better than a book or movie where there isn't a steel girder of purpose underlying the story's action. 

In writing stories, singularity is powerful--a clear, consistent theme or
character arc that pulls disparate events in a narrative into a unified message or achievement. I get that. I've taken a bunch of classes and they all balance the "hard" stuff of story beats and structure with the "easy" stuff of understanding the point of your story.

But when your brain is foggy, singularity is even harder than story structure. Anyone can have a plot board or a beat sheet and eventually learn how to use one, but keeping a story on that steel girder track--or even a thin wooden balance beam--is impossible if you can't distill all the info, all the words, all the thoughts, all the scenes, into a coherent theme to begin with. It can be hard for even veteran writers (see Jenny Crusie's struggles last week here) but it's essential to writing a satisfying read.

This blog, for me, has been an exercise in singularity. I try to take ingredients from everyday life and try to blend them with humor and visuals and experience into a point I want to make about love. 

I don't always succeed. 

Sometimes I'm stretching the logic too thin, or writing in a way that's muddled. My last post is an example (here, if you need to feel my pain). My husband Mark said it wasn't a complete miss (those I usually have the good sense not to post), but it didn't come together either. Which I knew. Why else would I ask? 

Going back to edit, I couldn't fix it. I knew my point (why obvious advice doesn't always work), but not my limits. The gist of it was kind of arcane, and the examples so broad and the post so long that it derailed from the "theme track" at every turn. 

Self Love Blog
I could delete it but decided not to, as a lesson in self-acceptance. When I miss the mark I'm ashamed, but also proud of myself for trying. 

Because life and love and writing are hard. Adding cognitive problems makes them even tougher. Talking about my recovery--and deficits--is extremely difficult, which is why I don't mention them here very often. I don't have enough distance to make a relevant point about brain injuries. 

But the new doctor's new approach is to work on functional limitations one at a time so progress more likely and clear. 

Which made me think of this blog, and taking on too much at once. 

So in the spirit of positive change,starting tomorrow I'm going to go for less ambitious, more cohesive posts. 

Starting tomorrow ;). 

Love, Lisa

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