Because for a while I kind of thought I did.
This is one of those posts I struggle to compose, but the lesson is so important that I know I need to. Over the past year or so, I've been noticing a very subtle but increasing problem with my speech. So subtle that my husband hasn't noticed. I've been stumbling over my words a bit, struggling about once a day to get the right word or words out, in the right way. Sometimes the letters get squished, or a syllable gets substituted with something slightly different. I might say, "The dog needs to go out-thide" instead of "outside." Another thing that happens is that sometimes I have to pause and shut my eyes for a second to think of a common word, like "couch," when I'm staring right at it. I know everyone jumbles words from time to time. But not every day.
It's been unnerving. I don't know if you've noticed, but words and expressing myself are kind of a big deal for me. I went to my general doctor about six months ago, feeling completely foolish even bringing it up at my annual check-up. He suggested I pay closer attention and revisit the issue if I noticed it worsening. Well, I did notice. (And perhaps I only noticed it because now I was paying closer attention.) But this week, he sent me to a neurologist.
It was the craziest experience. One reason being that I suddenly found myself in an episode of Grey's Anatomy, where I was Meredith's 75 year-old patient being screened for Alzheimer's. After the first few questions, I started laughing and nervously chattering about the similarities to the show, while the poor P.A., who was younger than I, politely smiled, most likely thought I was a pathetic little housewife, and said she didn't watch it. How could I not laugh when she said, "I'm going to say three words. In a few minutes, I want you to repeat them back to me." That line's been in nearly every episode for months. They're performing a clinical trial, you know.
(Side note addressed to Ms. Physician's Assistant: BTW, I still know them. Flag, ball, tree. And another thing. Thinking it's June 6th instead of June 7th does not count as minus one on the stupid test. It just means I'm a mother, with no reason to know what the exact date is. June 6th, give or take a few days, is FINE. You're lucky I knew it was June already. And lastly, I'm not that pathetic.)
Back to my brain. The doctor finally came in. I passed all the tests, he ruled out a degenerative condition, and so he began questioning my lifestyle. How do I sleep at night? How about my eating...vitamins...am I a vegan? (apparently vegans can have vitamin deficiencies that can cause memory problems). All well and good, and yes I eat plenty of meat. So then he began peering at me. I swear it was like he was reading my mind. All the while, he was slightly grinning. It wasn't a smirk. It was almost like he recognized me, or...recognized my brain.
For the second time, the appointment started to feel really crazy to me. The doctor said that my brain was simply maxxed out, overfull, and that I was demanding too much of it by way of multitasking. He compared it to a computer that slows down when too many programs are open at once. And while his diagnosis sounded so NOT complex and somewhat obvious, his words started to peel back something deeper inside. I started to feel really exposed, like I was sitting there without a shirt on.
You know that feeling when you talk to your best friend, and she is completely tracking with your every thought even though you've only said five words? That is what was happening, but I was talking with a man, who was also a stranger. Super weird. He got exactly what I was saying and had a way of clarifying my thoughts further. I tend to believe he was speaking from personal experience. This is what it comes down to. Many times in the course of my day, I am relegating my communication to auto-pilot and have already mentally skipped ahead to something else. My lack of attention to my words and sometimes to whom I'm even speaking is the cause for the mistakes. It was a new thought for me that not everyone's brain is doing that. And it took one to know one.
As quickly as I felt strangely known and seen, I also felt a stab in my spirit. The kind that comes from the Lord, what we call conviction. The peeling back and revelation of my problem came with deep conviction I won't soon forget: I need to be more present. I need to take a breath. Focus. See to whom I am speaking, and communicate more carefully, even if it is simply, "It's time for homework."
How could I have assumed anything worth saying could be delivered through that auto-pilot part of my brain, while I gave my real attention to shuffling through mail or chopping vegetables? There were a couple of moments, while I talked with the doctor, when I feared he would notice my eyes were swollen with tears.
As soon as I got to my car, I didn't know whether I should cheer because I didn't have a brain tumor, laugh because it was such a simple problem, or melt into tears because of what I began to realize has been lost...the time, the moments, the opportunities for relationship...all because I've become a habitual multitasker. Mostly, I felt grieved. And still do.
So that's where I'm at, on a new tack. Trying to open my eyes, slow down my words, and be all there, wherever I am. Today I don't remember fumbling my words once. I think that's a good sign.