Friday, 9 January 2015

Being lesser versions of ourselves

It's difficult to know what put the damper on the Christmas break the most, having flu and associated opportunistic bacterial secondary infections for pretty much the whole month of December, or the absence from all those daily sources of tangential thought. Life can get very convergent in the same environment for two weeks whilst the office languishes unpopulated and unheated.
Sometimes, it feels as if someone is going through the rooms in your head, turning the lights off one by one and closing the doors as they go.
By January 2nd, I was a lacklustre shell of my usual self, with dull eyes,  slack jaw hanging open continuously and mind devoid of anything but the most rudimentary of thoughts (mostly regarding discomfort from the furniture and going to the toilet. Lack of appetite meant even hunger was absent and I couldn't drink on account of the antibiotics). This is not the fault of those around me throughout that time in any other respect than I know them so very well and so responses tend to be familiar. And it is the unexpected and unfamiliar that seems to inspire the sudden opening up of new avenues of thought with the attendant reward of that little squish of dopamine.
The most exciting thing that happened in my Street this Christmas

It was only a visit to Bristol where, in restaurant that things started to improve. Pondering the inordinate delay to our order as I contemplated eating the tablecloth as my now returned appetite intruded forcefully upon all other thoughts, a wall made of, basically, wooden crates caused some of the annexes of my mind to reopen and the light to go on. For some reason, my curiosity, an animal with its own opinions on where I should direct my attention and how quickly action must subsequently follow, sent me over to have a look at how they were constructed so perhaps I could make some myself form the huge pile of acquired pallets I am currently dismantling in my garage (they have such useful wood on them and once planed are useful for many projects. Like beer crates for instance. In fact, I have made two now and most satisfying it was too!)

Then on Friday, a visit to the Waterside provided excellent 1920s Jazz music and exhausting dancing. This somehow reignited the sparks so that by my return to the office on Monday, most of the rooms in my mind were open with a neat little fire burning warmly in the hearth and the windows thrown open allowing a healthy breeze to blow away all the cobwebs that had accumulated during their closure. Just in time for my return to work. Yes....

I wonder what it is that switches us on as opposed to shutting us down. I am surely not alone in this feeling that a large portion of our mental faculties are somehow put out of action or beyond our reach by circumstances. Sometimes, a period of comfortable but numbing low-stimulus leaves  me an intellectual and spiritual zombie. Other times, some small thing sparks a train of thought, seemingly from nowhere,  and the mind lights up like a country with heavily populated cities photographed at night from space.

This is not just me, is it?

So, how can we prevent the former and encourage the latter? I really don't know: It seems that the stimuli which fire up the brain can be so very unexpected in nature and yet difficult to identify that making them available adequately to keep ourselves recognisable as the people we enjoy being is a real challenge.

But it must be done as I really hate being that other dullard and it feels a waste of time being such rudimentary versions of ourselves when we know so much more is possible.

Ooh! I feel a bit more like my usual self again. Writing this must have helped!


Librarian said...

Writing usually does help, I find. As does reading, in my case at least. Coming across a finely ciselled and elegantly draped sentence in a book makes my mind make a tiny exclamation mark, and sometimes I manage to remember the sentence long enough to use it (or part of it) myself.
And like you said, sometimes it's an outside detail we never expected to spark that process in our minds and yet it does exactly that. A long time ago, I wrote about an instant that was such a spark for me; it is here if you are interested.

Very important for me is the balance between interacting with people (sometimes with many people, as when I am attending some event or other) and being on my own. I need both. The interacting gives me inspiration, the alone time gives me the chance to follow up on it, and surprisingly enough, I do find inspiration within myself every now and then.
I like your comparison with rooms that are shut and then reopened again. It is a very good example, and I am glad to know that your rooms are well lit, heated and aired again.

Kay G. said...

Glad you are feeling better. You should realize that when you have an illness, it takes a long while for the body to completely recover. Be kind to yourself!
And I have been curious all my life about anything and everything! It puts people off sometimes but it is helpful in writing a blog!

PerlNumquist said...

Thank you both for your comments. Yes, I suppose I should remember that mind and body are effectively the same thing and being physically might affect my mental capacities. I suppose I of all people should already realise this.
What concerned me was that my curiosity, usually a constant and faithful companion, was notably absent. And I missed it. But apart from everyone frowning at me and saying "You look pale!" I mostly feel ok. I just want to make sure I don't descent to that wretched dull state again.

Friko said...

I’m glad that the light is back on. Mine was out too, but that’s just being ill and unable to rise to any kind of activity. Once energy level rise, so does everything else. Or so I tell myself.

I have a huge problem: inertia.
Once I’m becalmed I stay becalmed for a long time.

Let’s hope the new year brings a bit more zest.

PerlNumquist said...

Well, I think perhaps we have to be a bit more active that hoping the new year provides us with stuff we can turn into energy. I can't speak for the universality of this but, personally, I have to have exposure to interesting people and situations, even via this very medium I am using now, if my brain is to wake up and emit the sparks that ignite ideas and creativity. This is perhaps the realisation of this Christmas brea, I agree though: The dampening effects of illness perhaps need factoring in in this case.