Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Those People To Whom The Alien's Talk? They're On To Something

I had a whole topic in mind today and I pondered it as I walked my hot, sweaty walk which was a very difficult one today for some reason. I don't know why and haven't figured out a pattern but some days gravity is just far more profound than other days and today was one of those days.
But my topic, the thing I was going to talk about was PTSD and how really it's just more proof of my ape-alien theory which is the theory (of mine, no one else's, I am sure) that we humans are an on-going genetic experiment by aliens who have taken their genes and the genes of the great apes of this planet and combined them somehow and voila! HUMANS!

It explains so much. It's not unlike String Theory in that the whole idea is fantastic and unbelievable but ties up a lot of loose ends.
I mean, it's possible, right?

Here we are, so obviously related to our dear cousins, the great apes and yet, we have these brains that just do not quit. We overthink our bodies and their functions all the damn time which leads to most of the insanity and thank-you for that very much, you ALIENS! and could you fix this?

For example- we have that great fight-or-flight response to threat just like most animals whether you're talking lizard or chimp but unlike those guys, when the threat is gone or we have escaped it or whatever, the flight-or-flight response is still switched on because we just keep thinking about how that damn bear could come back and get us while we sleep or have our backs turned or whatever and one thing leads to another and the next thing you know, we're tossing back Ativan and paying therapists out the WAZOO and trying to practice Mindfulness Meditation and all because we're too smart to think that there's no threat just because we can't see it and too dumb not to be able to realize that if we're on fight-or-flight mode all the time it'll kill us as thoroughly as the bear.

Phew. Okay. So on to PTSD. Something traumatic happens, right? REALLY traumatic. Life-threatening or something we perceive as life-threatening. Soldier in war-time battle, civilian in bomb attack, mother whose child is badly injured or becomes very ill, child who is abused, car accident victim. Something.
And after the initial incident is long over something comes along to trigger the memory of the traumatic incident in a very deep and non-logical and sensory way and we react as we did when the initial incident happened.

And I think this is what happens to me now when it's this time of year. The body remembers, even if the mind does not keep track and if you don't believe that, you have not been paying attention.
It was this time of year that I went absolutely insane, completely nuts with anxiety (which came from my stupid nervous system reacting in a way which was not appropriate to begin with) and I start to get all those feelings again and I start reacting the same exact way I did during the initial incident of insanity.

So I realized this today and it was helpful to me because knowing that I'm not necessarily going insane again but just reliving that time that I did is not as scary as thinking, "Oh shit. It's happening again."
Okay. This is not as profound as the war vet who dives under a table when he hears a car backfire but there are similarities and that's the truth.
So yeah- my alien brain tells me that I'm going insane and my ape brain goes into panic and I end up a fucking mess.

I'm glad we got that straightened out and that's what I was thinking about on my walk but when I got home, Kathleen was here, just about to leave. I was so glad I got home before she did leave because if she came by, that meant she wanted to see me and I always want to see her. We air-kissed because when I get back from my walk I am not someone you want to get close to. Or even be in the same room with, actually. But it was what it was and we came back into the house and she's shaken, that woman.
She's having to deal with an awful lot and it seems to get more awfully serious every day. She's sort of run out of jokes for the moment. And she's tired. And she's thinking about things like making her will and changing her bedroom for another room in the house that gets more light and that she can see out into her yard from. And losing her hair. And facing the unknown. And, and, and...

And there I was, listening to her and trying to be reassuring and yet, let her speak what's in her heart and not trying to tell her not to worry or that everything's going to be okay because what does that MEAN? Okay. Huh. Who knows? We don't know.
And trying to be calm and trying to let this be about her and not me (which is so hard for me and I'm not good at it) and it occurred to me that it's so damn easy to be the one without cancer. To be the one who can offer help and an ear and whatever is needed and that if the situation was reversed and I was the one who had cancer in my cervical spine, I would be completely and utterly flipping out and doing god knows what fucked-up things and I would be swallowing anti-anxiety drugs as if they were M&M's and drinking straight vodka my every waking moment and I would be crying and screaming and probably end up killing myself way before the cancer even had a chance.

I think. Knowing my track record. Knowing myself as I do. And I'm not judging myself for that. It's just the way I am.

But in a way, I feel like a hypocrite, standing in my kitchen talking to Kathleen, trying to be all calm and shit. Because I don't have cancer (that I know of) and so how can I even pretend to tell her that she should do this or not do that or feel this or not feel that?
I can't. I just fucking can't and shouldn't and will try not to. Because isn't that the most severe form of bullshit there is? I might as well be one of those people who tells other people in crisis that "god never gives us more than we can handle," which is such a patent lie. God gives people more than they can handle every day. Or, well, actually, I don't think that god does any such thing. Things just happen. And sometimes they are way too overwhelming, too big, and too painful for us to handle.
And yet, some people can. And do. Handle the unimaginable.

So I guess to try and tie all of this together (not unlike the String Theory which is something that Kathleen and I discussed today which is why I am thinking of it), I will say that there are times when you need to tell your alien brain to SHUT THE FUCK UP! and just let your ape brain take care of things. Give hugs. Offer food. Crack a joke if it's possible and grin like a fool. Just be there, hanging out in the savanna together, sharing prime gathering spots and shooting the shit and letting things happen as they will, always keeping in mind how far we're traveling from the rest of the tribe, remembering that it's a good thing to be back to the tall trees where you can make a nice, cozy sleeping nest before dark.

Every time Kathleen leaves, I want to give her something to take with her. The alien part of me wants so badly for that something to be a ration of peace or calmness or wisdom but really, that's not even possible. So the ape part wants to give her food or a soft blanket or books to read or a magazine or maybe my diamond necklace. I don't know. Whatever would help. But that's hard too, although not impossible. She's so gracious that she does usually leave with something in her hand. Today it was a few cherries. Sort of pathetic, really, for me to offer those but it was the only thing I had that she would even come close to accepting today.

This reminds me of a story Jane Goodall told about how when she was first getting to know the chimps and they her, she offered one of them some food and he took it, even though he didn't want it, and then quietly let it slide to the ground when he thought she wasn't looking. That's when she began to realize that we have far more in common with these cousins of ours than meets the eye.

We offer what we can and we do that from our ape-hearts and we receive those gifts even if we don't need them and sometimes it is far more of a gift to the giver than to the receiver. And the older I get, the more I want to trust my ape mind and heart more than my alien parts. The ape part is the part that takes what is given and doesn't overthink it and gets on with life the best it can.

And communicates not just with sound but with touch which is sometimes far more helpful than anything we can say out of our big old doody-head alien brains.

And that's how it seems to me although it's just a theory. Made up by my alien brain and confirmed by my ape heart and there you go.


  1. Oh, Ms. are brilliant.....and you write marvelously well. Wow.

  2. Both parts of my brain agree with your theory. Good stuff.

    I've been aching and feeling much older than my 35 years and today, I thought to myself that if I continue to feel this shitty, I'm gonna need drugs to make me feel better. Then Joe called and informed me I'd mistakenly bought caffeine-free soda. So there you go. Crisis averted. I'm not dying! I just need to find some NoDoz and we'll be straight again! (I wish it were just that easy.)

    You are a good friend. I KNOW you are.

  3. I have real problems combatting the urge to solve and fix and console and advise and FEED in times of trouble.

    I don't know if there's a traceable reason for all that. I wonder what I want from other people? To let me talk endlessly and in circles and give me a nice space to be for a little while maybe. And make me lunch, if they feel so inclined.

  4. Kathleen comes to you cause you make her feel BETTER. Even if you feel like you can't do anything, you're still helping her.

    I think I like our ape brains better than our alien brains


  5. And sometimes it may be the gift of a handful of cherries that carries us from a moment to the next moment, walking beside who knows what unimaginable universes.

  6. Wow from me too. I love your posts. I wish, wish, wish for Kathleen to be better, for cancer to go the fuck away and leave her alone. Everyone. Sigh. I love you with my whole ape heart and both brains.

  7. I like this post... except the part about Kathleen being shaken and well, the whole damn cancer thing in general.

    If I can be of any ape-like help, I'm here.

  8. "I would be completely and utterly flipping out and doing god knows what fucked-up things and I would be swallowing anti-anxiety drugs as if they were M&M's and drinking straight vodka my every waking moment and I would be crying and screaming and probably end up killing myself way before the cancer even had a chance."

    Hahahhaha. I laughed out loud at that --because you KNOW I would melt into complete and utter despair and drama queen activities too.

  9. I agree with what A said, above. Those small gifts convey love, and that is what she was feeling in the palm of her hand as she left your home.

  10. Lo- There is absolutely nothing I can say to that but a very, very humble thank-you.

    Ms. Trouble- I accidentally got a bag of decaf once instead of regular coffee and had such a headache for three days that I thought I had a brain tumor. I feel your pain.

    Jo- And sometimes, yes, all we need is someone to listen. And maybe offer a sandwich.

    Michelle- I know I like my ape brain better and trust it more.

    A- It's not the gift, it's the thought. Well, sometimes it IS the gift but that's another story.

    Mel- Back at you, darling.

    Ms. Fleur- I know. And appreciate.

    deb- I love you too.

    SJ- We all deal with things differently, don't we?

    Lora- I hope so.

  11. What a good friend you are. Each of us should be so fortunate to have you on the team.

  12. Syd- Damn. If I am a good friend, it's only because I HAVE good friends. You know what I'm saying.

  13. That Jane Goodall story gave me chills.

  14. Stephanie- I read that story over thirty years ago and I have never forgotten it.

  15. I think you have a VERY viable theory here, love. This is a terrific post. I think the main requirement of being a true friend is to just show up and be there. You do that.

    As to this: I might as well be one of those people who tells other people in crisis that "god never gives us more than we can handle," which is such a patent lie.

    I do believe I would slug someone who said this to me in time of hardship or grief. I really do. That phrase just burns the Moms and I up.

  16. I've been trying to get the time to read this post forever it seems. Glad I waited until I was settled in and calm. Got me all teary. Goosebumps too. Beautiful writing.
    Beautiful you and beautiful Kathleen.
    Thinking of you both.
    Love love loved the Jane Goodall story, how perfect.
    You write like a dream.


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