Let there be light! Pretty as it was, the black blog kind of makes me claustrophobic after awhile. This won’t make any sort of sense to most people, but this morning my first priority was tracking down a picture of a Baobab tree.
Here’s a Baobab tree:
Holy freakin’ hell. They are not, what you’d call a particularly ‘picturesque’ tree. What they are is gigantic, scraggly monsters with an excess of personality. Really fun to look at, I couldn’t choose one photograph, they were so wonderfully weird. So bear with me while I get this out of my system.
Someday, I really wanna see Africa.
Okay, I’m good.
That was the other part. I woke and thought. I can’t really stop myself, thinking is what I do. But I was thinking about how people wake up.
Lately, I go to bed with happy thoughts a lot of the time. I even go to bed early. Way early for me, like- in the 10 o’clock hour. This changes everything. I’m used to being up too late, or functioning on little enough sleep, so now there’s this staggered pattern-
Some nights are still the old fall-into-a-heap-at-3 a.m.-and-wake-at-6:20-feeling-like-the-crypt-keeper sorts of nights. I know exactly what to do on those mornings: I crack open my protesting eyes, and force my creaking body into an upright stance. (It doesn’t really creak, but I swear, in my body, it feels creaky). The immediate goal is to nurse my insulted senses with something warm to drink. Reality must be contended with. Life must be survived. Anything accomplished is a big plus in the ol’ roster, because I’m doing it under those circumstances.
I have those mornings down pat.
But when I’ve drifted blissfully off at 10 o’clock p.m., and wake refreshed and revitalized at 6:30 in the morning with so much sleep under my belt, it’s a little bit… weird. Now what?
See, I’m wired to approach my day from a deficit. The idea of having a whole day feeling well, and the endless potential and possibility from that point- that’s overwhelming. I assume I’m going to fail at it. There was nowhere to go but up from the other point of entry, but now? What the hell do I do now?
I’m not quite sure, in all honesty, how to be healthy.
These big malleable brains we have are interesting critters. Our brains are so vast, and full of so many connections and vying information, that they have to actually program themselves. What the brain does is use the information that seems most relevant and useful, and sort of hard-wires those connections. Those pathways in the brain that get the most usage- the synapses most often buzzed become deeper grooves. Habit, muscle memory, automatic actions (like how you unthinkingly put your car in a certain gear once you turn the ignition) the brain has all that stuff covered for you, once you’ve programmed it in there enough times.
Habitual behavior is sort of similar. You’ve worn a deep-ass groove in your brain from repeating a behavior or reaction to something often enough. Your brain is convinced it is important. It’s like, helping you out. And the same brain that calmly assesses a situation and deduces that a behavior needs to be changed, is the same brain that will make such a change no walk in the park.
It is a little scary to take the process in your hands and try to create a new way of thinking; a new pattern of approach. Survival is easy- it’s a universally personal imperative. Almost anyone can learn how to live by ‘coping’. But stepping off that narrow ledge into something you want to be- the only imperative there is will.
And it isn’t really about being weak or being strong or being determined enough, either. Change is challenging to anyone, just based on how our brain works. But the more motivated a brain is to diminish a fear or pain response, the harder it will probably be to subject yourself to change.
See, the thinking part, the cerebrum, has the information to initiate change. But then you introduce the three ring circus of your emotional center- the limbic system, and the orderly process becomes a mosh-pit. Your amygdala is riffing over the fear and the shame and the anxiety associated with the change of habits, and the hypothalamus is getting punchy, so you’re having an elevated heart-rate, sweat, higher blood pressure, you name it. The part of your brain that associates emotions and memories pipes in. Then damage control is called down, because you’ve got alarms going off from what seems like the mind’s response to danger. The easiest way to solve all this is to return to status quo: The behavior that you were trying to change in the first place.
And now you’ve failed, and you’re still responding from the stress and the unpleasantness of failure, so enter escapism. Just tuck your thoughts away- that’s right, it’s soothing. Everything is a-ok. Tuck it away.
I guess I’d describe it as learning to live your life at the pinpoint of your personality. You don’t stretch too far forward or too far back, you hone whatever skills and resources you have to ‘deal’ with life on a momentary basis. That’s the heights of a fear pattern. When you relax or heal enough to look forward a little, and even maybe chance a glance back, it’s kind of scary. You might teeter up there, where you’ve got it all arranged so nicely to ‘cope’. A whole life might be lived that way- approaching the world from one tiny little point of entry.
Kind of a Dopey way to live, isn’t it? I think I’d rather risk Happy. I want a new dwarf.