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Everyone Here is Jim Dandy - 18

Posted Mar 01 2013 3:44am


The MS Brain

A bat and a ball together cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

Most people will say 10 cents. This answer tends to look obvious at first glance, nonetheless it is incorrect.

This example is given in a book about the brain that I am reading. It is given as an illustration of how the brain thinks, which is really not at all like a computer nor a calculator. Rather, it appears that the brain will often run on intuition rather than logic, the reason for this being that the route to conclusions is shorter, faster on the intuitive highway than on the bumpier road of logic.

Now, on the other hand the damaged brain (i.e. the MS brain) falls into the habit of taking long-cuts. This is because multiple and various routes are blocked by scar tissue. The process runs up against a wall. It reroutes. This takes just long enough to create physical or mental deficits--spasticity, confusion, indecision, cognitive hiccoughs, feet that buzz, shoulders that twitch, hands that tremble.
Maybe you get lost in a parking lot while your brain is busy at sending thoughts through dizzying alternative channels, picking up the necessary information to arrive at a proper construct of sight and memory, motor response and accurate identification. Maybe you actually become dizzy in the process as well, adding a further impediment to the solution of your quandary.

Let us say that yesterday morning you fell down the stairs in your house. This is something that most all people will do at one time or another (unless they have no stairs in their houses), but with MS it is something you can count on happening if indeed you also happen to have a molecular beaver dam halfway down the stream between the lift foot instruction and the put foot down instruction.

We begin, therefore, after enough falls, after enough endless journeys around the parking lot, to commit ourselves to a deliberate sort of thought process. This is not to say that we succeed at all times (or even at most times), but it is a matter of practice, a matter of adjustment. In MS there is no straight route, and there is no intuitive route--there are only the routes that propose to navigate the damage that was done by the storm--whoops log-jam there, washed out bridge to the south, we will have to go north and then cut back again, down by the old river road--you know, the one that hasn't been used in ages. And so forth.

More and more I try to practice an artificial sort of deliberation as often as possible. This in turn often results in a physical slowness that mirrors the mental, a necessary trade-off. I stand by the door counting my way through a checklist--keys, cell phone, wallet, cigarettes, laptop, & etc. I stop before getting behind the steering wheel, collecting data on locale and recollection. I check notes that I keep in my back pocket, and whatever tasks I find that can be done on the instant, I do--for I will surely forget if I put them off for even five minutes.

Sometimes I feel like a game piece on a Monopoly board. I move according to the numbers, look at my cards, follow the directions, plan my strategy. But this is not a game, not a mere amusement--this is walking, thinking, talking, functioning, where poor planning sends you not straight to jail (do not pass Go), but flat on your face at the bottom of the stairway.

The best thing for me, given the number of MS holes in my brain, would be to somehow plan on making mistakes in whatever I do before they are actually made. I don’t know if this is actually possible. It would take a level of concentration and vigilance not easily attained because of those same brain holes, not to mention a certain sort of surrender to disability.

Nonetheless, if I cannot soon find a way to negotiate my own stupidity, it’s going to end up causing some kind of serious trouble eventually. It’s just little things. Like misplacing the movies I had rented this morning. It was clear they had not gotten home with me, but that was all that was clear. Their whereabouts were otherwise a perfect mystery.

The first necessity in trying to unravel the mystery of the missing videos was to determine in my mind just exactly where I had been in the last couple hours. This is not an easy task when the better part of recollection has disappeared in black holes. I sat at the dining room table and went over and over the question of my own activities. I employed the aid of certain clues, such as the papers and sales receipts in my pockets. I asked my son if I had mentioned anything regarding my plans.

It appeared, after investigation, that I had gone to the movie store (well, of course I had—I must have, right?), I had gone to Starbucks (fresh foam in the bottom of the cup on the kitchen counter), I had gone to the bank—actually two banks (the papers in my pocket), and I had gone to the pharmacy.

But in what order. At what point in this unknown chronology had I rented the movies, at what point had I ended up without them?

The only thing to do was to embark upon further investigation—to visit the actual scenes in question, to follow my own tracks, no matter how hard my brain was trying to cover them. In short, I would put a tail on myself.

Was it Colonel Mustard in the study, or Mrs. Peacock in the ballroom?

Well, I found the movies—or rather, a bank teller found them and returned them to the video store. But they might just as easily have been picked up by a stranger and kept, without charge. Free movies for him, as I would have been paying to own what I was unable to find.

You see what I mean?

At that bank earlier that morning (where the movies had ultimately been found), I had made a fairly simple transaction—simple, that is, for anyone with a functioning brain. I was to withdraw $670 from my son’s custodial account, put $300 for his rent in my checking account, and take the rest in cash to deliver to him. I have done it hundreds of times.

And yet, when the teller asked me how I would like the money, and found myself completely paralyzed by what she could mean by this.

How do I want it? Well, I guess you can just hand it across the counter.
No, in what denominations? She wanted to know if I wanted it in 20s, or 100s, or some combination of the two.

I guess unless you’ve been there, it is simply impossible to convey the nature of the inescapable rut ones mind can fall into. Or maybe it’s like getting your car stuck in a snow bank. . You can’t go forward, you can’t go backward. You just spin your wheels.

How do I want it? How do I want it? My goodness, what an interesting question. Hmm, let me think here. . . . Oh, I know—why don’t you just decide for me!
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