№31 Brain at Work


I’m up early-ish, 9:15. Kids are on winter vacation so no alarms. I’m re-working a story about how, at 50, my brain is going to shit; how I can’t focus and can’t remember things the way I used to. An editor at an online magazine asked for a re-write. She wants me to explore why losing my mind scares me.

Hello, because it’s my mind! But I see her point. A story needs more.

I write about how in my 30s I directed a nonprofit organization and balanced our books in my head. I didn’t need to keep a calendar. I remembered every date and activity.

Last month, I missed two orthodontist appointments. I had them written in my calendar, I just forgot to look. When the receptionist called, I had no excuse.

I need to eat. Sebastian is all over me in the kitchen. He wants a mango smoothie. I say I’ll make the smoothie if he’ll get off the computer and watch a movie in Spanish.

Here’s an idea: I’m afraid if I lose my sharpness I won’t be able to write and writing is the way I figure out how I think. If I can’t think, I won’t be able to think about how I think. I see my brain circling the drain.

I check emails. Why do I keep getting Miami Film Festival emails? I have two new followers on Medium. Does anyone I don’t beg even read that rag? I have to sign Sebastian up for theater next semester. Acting in an elementary school play costs $735! Are you fucking kidding me?

I write about how hard I trained at tennis when I was a kid. Is this relevant? I think it might be. I wanted to be great at tennis. I wanted to get to Wimbledon. I never got there, not even to watch.

I want to be great at something and now, at 50, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be tennis, so I have to rely on my brain. But really? I’m no Steven Hawking.

Last weekend we watched…what was the name of the movie? I Google “Steven Hawking movie.” Nancy Pelosi was elected Speaker of the House. Today is day 13 of the government shut down… I get a little lost on The New York Times website. Got it, The Theory of Everything. What a beautiful movie. Now that’s a high stakes situation. Steven Hawking had a mind that needed to be preserved.

What’s worse: To lose your mind or your body?

Sebastian wants to read A Brief History of Time. I order it from Books & Books. Will he understand it? He’s turning ten. Or is it 10? I Google “How to write numbers over ten.” Grammar Girl says she uses words for numbers one through nine, then numerals. I loved being 10. I was Lieutenant of patrols at Vineland Elementary. I had a red badge. Vineland is your school, Vineland is my school. Hurray to each one for goals that you’ve won. I got the school sit-up record. Did I peak at 10?

I write a note on my to-do list: Plan Sebastian’s birthday party.

I check Facebook. I clear my notifications. I read a post called 31 Things Your Kid Should Be Doing Instead of Screen Time. I go to the living room to see what Sebastian is doing. He’s playing a video game. I give him three choices that I remember from the post: listen to classical music, clean your room, draw a picture. He says he knows what to do, but first he has to finish his video game.

I get to work. Where was I? Why am I afraid of losing my mind?

Tashi comes into my office in her pajamas. It’s 2:00 in the afternoon. I say good morning and give her the three choices from the post. She gives me a sassy smile and walks out. She’s 15 so I know she’ll be on her phone the rest of the day.

I go back to Facebook. My friend Allison Landa posted this, no shit: “I’m so scared that I’m going to die never having achieved anything.” A lot of her friends tell her she’s achieved great things. She has a beautiful marriage, a beautiful kid, blah, blah. I tell her she’s hacked into my brain.

How long have I been on Facebook? Is there a way to see when I opened my account? I check settings. Can’t figure it out. I check Twitter. Funny shot of Trump surrounded by three bald men. “I am the president of the Trump Hair Club.” I wish I had thought of that.

Wow it’s 3:00 already. Time for afternoon coffee. Maybe a bike ride to clear my head.

Coffee always gives me a little focus. Maybe I need something stronger than coffee. Do I have ADD? My office is a mess. I need to organize my books. How many writing books does a person need? I have 21. Maybe I should write a new one. I have a good idea about how writing tips are the same as life tips. For example: No one cares about your travel plans; Don’t be fake; Ask yourself why? Those are tips to keep handy in writing and in life. But it’s been done. It’s called Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

I’m writing about how I want to be famous like Anne Lamott. She’s written seven novels and 11 works of nonfiction. Thank you, Wikipedia. But has anyone ever heard of Anne Lamott? I’m in the wrong business for fame. Why do I want to be famous? Because I want someone to write about wanting to be like me.

Shit, I have to poo. Sebastian is drawing a picture of a snowman using a step-by-step video on the computer.

Vicky calls. She thinks our daughter has a secret Instagram account. WTF?! I need an Instagram account so I can spy on my kid. I can’t learn one more social media app. Not now. On top of having no time, they say social media reduces a person’s IQ by 10 points. Instagram will ruin me.

I write about how I approach writing the way I approached tennis. I train hard. I write and rewrite. Why am I doing this? I want to matter. And I’m afraid I’m going to die without becoming great at something.

This is №31 of my #weeklyessaychallenge. I started this the week I turned 50.