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Brain Unplugged

I know my brain isn’t normal. Do I think I’m neurodivergent? No. But whatever’s going on up there isn’t programmed like the “average bear.” Some shit is wired like a drunk hillbilly that gets the job done. When I was a kid, they told my mom I was crazy smart, but once 3rd grade hit, I was held back. Can I do math? Nope. I still count on my fingers and use a tip calculator everywhere. Hence, the whole holding-me-back thing in school. But I could rip through Stephen King’s IT by 10 years old so, potato tomato.

I’ll also not sleep if there’s something important to do in the morning. I’ll keep freaking out that I didn’t hear my alarm clock when, in fact, I’ve probably set four alarms just to be safe. Money management? Forget it. If I were good with money, I wouldn’t owe every creditor this side of the Mississippi a sawbuck (I blame COVID for much of this, but I digress).

Instead of being able to do things like paint houses or sell iPhones, my mind moves through places I feel the need to write down, think about, or obsess over. Something will get stuck in my head, a word, a thought, a painting, a song lyric, and I’ll over analyze it; I’ll strip it apart until it’s a fragment in my mind. Rarely is my head quiet. There is always information moving, something being written in my subconscious, an idea brewing. Think of an old-timey newsreel: there’s always a guitar riff, a random memory, or an idea that if I don’t scribble it down immediately, it’ll be lost forever. My phone is a library of notes, and I constantly mine them for essays and stories. Even my drunk thoughts have provided something tangible despite the half-cocked premise and horrific spelling.

To silence the noise, I love tasks. I enjoy folding clothes and washing dishes, and I need to cook. When I cook, my mind isn’t thinking about why people fall for the two-party system and believe that the boogie man of capitalism is their friend; I can get an alfredo sauce just right or make sure that my duck breast is properly scored to perfection, not letting in the harmful thoughts of why we’re a social-economic cabal dedicated to the stripping of resources in the third world. Instead, I put on a travel show, wishing I was anywhere but where I’m standing and let the towels fold themselves.

My fuck-ups are also front and center. If I’ve done something wrong, gotten into an argument, or hurt your feelings, trust me, I’ve not blown it off. I’ve obsessed about it to the point of making myself sick. I overshare. I want to talk about what’s going on inside my head, about my life, about what I’m experiencing and going through and sometimes, that’s not a good thing. Only with age and experience have I learned to shut up slightly. But it’s hard because I analyze the outside perspective. I want to know your thoughts based on what I just told you. It’s a part of my natural curiosity. I hate people on Monday, but on Tuesday, I am entirely ok with going to a new town and meeting new people. My oversharing has probably etched my name into my tombstone a time or two, but I’m working on it.

My girlfriend and I were walking through the Austin Antique Mall recently (which is now scheduled to close; yay for family entertainment mixed with a sprinkle of capitalism). As we moved through the stacks of junk mixed with tokens from past eras, the place was a museum to the haunted. Things persist long after we’re gone if they’re made well enough, which I can’t say for humanity. Passing through the various enclaves of stuff, I picked up a pile of old photos, mainly from the 60s and 70s: family portraits, candid shots of couples being goofy, pictures of grandparents in their absolute best-sipping highballs back before Kennedy got double-tapped, children looking fly in their brown trousers, and families smiling at a wedding. All these moments in time were captured; they lived in photo books, in shoe boxes. As the years went by, those people faded from memory and what was once a cherished moment was now relegated to a guy in an antique mall in Central Texas holding them after having Tex-Mex with his significant other on a Monday afternoon. The fragility of life is so rooted in the presence of the mind, of experience, that it can all be snapped and forgotten. That’s the stuff my brain fixates on, rather than who’s on the Masked Singer.

The world is complex, hard, and weird. People judge; they make assumptions about what we’re worth all the time. Some of us are held together by emotional duct tape, and others by way of therapy and medication, but at least we’re talking about it. Back in the day, we swept life under the rug, demanding we all “rub a little dirt on it” and move on; whereas now, everything ain’t perfect, but at least if someone can’t make eye contact, we know they’re not a serial killer and probably just really into trains.


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