Ever had brain fog?
There was a time when I was a picture of calm and collectedness; when ‘focused’ and ‘task-oriented’ were traits I strongly associated myself with. The only time I ever remember my eyes glazing over was during lectures on ‘Understanding the Universe,’ a cross-faculty module I took at Uni which entailed planets, stars, galaxies and cosmology. Suffice to say I did not and probably still do not understand the universe. But astrophysics aside, I’ve been told I’m decent, even good, at project management. If nothing else, I can compose a mean to-do list and check items off with efficiency and ease.
So perhaps things got fudgier when multiple spheres of life started to overlap, as they tend to do, and this is where I’m beginning to see my limits.
Maybe I never quite recovered from pregnancy brain, or it got worse after having my second child, but these days, I find myself walking around in some sort of auto-pilot mode I can vaguely describe in IT speak as ‘overdrive on screensaver.’ Mostly it involves me going through daily routines with an unsettling sense of being adrift, not entirely present, and oftentimes forgetful. Very forgetful.
Yesterday, my son was to have a make-up Chinese tuition class. My helper had remembered and so had my mum (since he takes these classes at her home after school). When his tutor sent a friendly Whatsapp reminder in the morning, I assumed everyone else had forgotten and had not made the prior preparations (when they in fact had), so I cancelled the session, to the general confusion of all involved. Earlier this week at work, I brought my make-up pouch out on lunchbreak instead of my wallet. And just last weekend, I bought dinner for everyone at home except myself.
It would be convenient to make this about having expended my mental bandwidth as a full-time working mum, and now, aspiring author. About how, after clocking full days at the office, it’s a terrible strain having to remember everything (mostly dates: the scheduled and the re-scheduled)—from the kids’ doctor/dental appointments, to words on weekly spelling tests, to school excursions and other extracurricular lessons for piano, Chinese and swimming, among many others—in a list that only gets longer. In addition, my ego takes a beating when I see other working mums managing all these, and more (children), with aplomb. Asking why I’ve been faring ‘worse’ has proved a pointless exercise.
“What’s on your mind?” my hubby asks, to which I reply, “Oh you know, everything.” “Write it down,” he suggests, and I grab my journal and scribble: “Feeling horrible. Period must be coming.” I could visit WebMD to self-diagnose myself with an incurable thyroid condition or hormonal disorder, or I could make light of my stupor-tinged lucidity with humor. I’ve chosen the latter. For now.
Anyhow, I don’t think the situation is as dire as I present it. Even if I get my dates and appointments mixed up, my mind’s been plenty active, albeit not about immediate matters at hand. Perhaps as some self-defense coping mechanism, my brain decided to subconsciously ‘tune out,’ directing me instead to the following 10 things (mostly fun stuff).
1. Katherine of Aragon and her daughter, Mary I (aka Bloody Mary). What is it about these women from 500 years ago that makes me want to yell at them, and yet want to give them each a hug? As a female, to read about their gynecological history is heartbreaking: Katherine with her series of miscarriages and only 1 surviving daughter (i.e. no male heir) and Mary with not one, but two ‘phantom pregnancies.’ The bad luck, the horror, the humiliation. What about supportive spouses? Henry VIII got his divorce and married Anne Boleyn while Philip II of Spain completely skipped town after Mary’s second faux pregnancy ended in ‘wind,’ only to propose marriage to her half-sister Elizabeth after Mary died a lonely, broken woman (the cad!). Every time I read biographical accounts on Katherine and Mary, I just want to scream. Yes their husbands failed to keep up their end of the bargain but surely they must’ve also wondered at some point: when caught in a predicament, if you couldn’t force others to change in your favor, perhaps you could change yourself? Had they been less obdurate; had they attempted to adapt to their new realities (the dissolution of a marriage, the inevitability of the Reformation), perhaps they could’ve made things better for themselves (in Mary’s case, less bodies need’ve been burned at the stake). Of course, by this point, I realize I’m rambling. I’m neither a historian nor an academic, and I’m forming these opinions only in the hindsight of 500+ years, i.e. I don’t have the faintest clue what it must’ve been like to be a woman, let alone a queen in 16th-century Europe grappling male-dominated courtly and political power. I get that I’m completely out of my depth. But still.
2. Ideas for my next book. They are still fluid at this point and too embarrassing to be enunciated. It’s only safe to say it’s a complete departure from Tea in Pajamas in terms of content and genre.
3. My next trip to Paris (my fourth).
4. My next trip to the Dordogne (a first for me, and interchangeable with no. 3 since I did promise to take Etienne to the Eiffel Tower someday).
5. Operas. What a dream come true to watch a live performance at the Palais Garnier (according to this site, I don’t even need to go in a ball gown). Of late, I’ve been listening to a lot of Gluck and wondering why his operatic works aren’t as widely performed as Mozart’s or Puccini’s. The music is excellent. Basically I share the sentiments of the author of this Telegraph article.
6. Getting back into a singing routine. Slightly embarrassing fact: I was a one-time chorister (nine years in a church choir). It was nice to be the S in SATB even if S didn’t stand for ‘soloist.’ And I miss it. I really want to get back into singing in some capacity, although as with everything else, my current schedule allows for very little outside recreation. Anything involving more than an hour’s attention (a haircut, catching up with friends, movie dates with hubby) entails me having to take leave from work.
7. A 30-day Ignatian retreat. There is a long back story to this.
8. Figuring out how to use Scrivener, which I recently installed. There are beaucoup de YouTube tutorials to watch on this and my eyes are beginning to glaze over the way they did during ‘Understanding the Universe’ lectures. I will get there!
9. The Hemingwrite. Not yet a reality, but I want one so badly.
10. Book progress for Tea in Pajamas. More spoilers later in the week.
So…brain fog. Am I okay with it? I guess so—it’s not always fun getting worked up over the bad decisions of Katherine of Aragon and Bloody Mary, but the other 9 I think I can live with.
Image: “Brain fog” by Joseph Tey.