Have you ever noticed that your brain just starts to shed skills and ways of thinking that it no longer needs? Like executives who can no longer operate a copy machine, for example?
I’ll preface this story, in my own defense, by letting you know that I was sick when all of this took place. I was congested, had terrible body aches, a low-grade fever, and stomach cramps from the Ibuprofen I’d taken. Still…
Last Thursday, I made my way to the airport to depart for the Big Sur conference. I got all the way to long-term parking before I realized I had forgotten my briefcase. The bag that not only had my laptop and all my copies of my manuscripts, but also that pesky little thing called a wallet. There was nothing for it; I had to drive all the way home, retrieve the briefcase and then head back to the airport. Luckily, I was able to get a flight that departed only 2 and half hours later than the original, the biggest bummer being that I would now make the drive from San Francisco to Big Sur almost entirely in the dark.
My woes did not end there. Once at the airport, I managed to leave my wallet up at the check-in kiosk. I did not notice it was missing until after I’d gone through security. I had to plead with TSA to give me a pass to go straight to the front of the line upon my return. Then I had to leg it back up to check-in and admit my dumb-assery to the clerks. Wallet safely back in possession, I went through the security line – again – and thanked my lucky stars I’d left myself plenty of time.
On the ground in San Francisco, I got my rental car and hit the road. Not even 30 seconds after I hit Highway 101 South, the GPS increased my travel time by six minutes. One more minute on the road and my travel time was up by 20 minutes. I felt disoriented and confused. Then I realized, “Oh yes, traffic…. I remember traffic… It happens sometimes in big cities.” Apparently I’ve become such a bumpkin in Boulder that I forgot that people spend hours of their lives in traffic every single day (as I used to do). Mulling this revelation over, it dawned on me that it was now past dusk and I still hadn’t turned my headlights on (my own car does this automatically). Doh!
It got me thinking about how much my life has changed over the course of just one year. I used to travel extensively for work, and there is no way I could have made the mistakes I made that day. Not when I was speaking, running a meeting, or presenting to bankers or Board members on the other end. I used to think I was a fairly efficient, prepared and precise kind of person. Now I realize that’s not true. I am able to do what I need to do to get the job done. In my former job, that required a much more regimented and structured existence. Now that I am focused on more creative pursuits, it seems those areas of my brain have gone a bit “squishy.” If necessity is, as they say, the mother of invention, apparently it is also the mother of the ability to keep your act together while traveling.
While pondering the fact of my now-squishy brain, I realized I was driving in the HOV lane. By the time I noticed, I only had a short way to drive before turning off onto another highway. So I stayed in the HOV. I did feel a little guilty, but my desperation was mounting. I felt terrible. Besides, I figured, my stomach was distended enough from the wretched cramps that I figured I might be able to get away with the, “I’m driving for two,” excuse if I got caught.
After what seemed like three days driving in the dark and the rain, I arrived at the coast in Monterey. From there, the road got increasingly twisty and turny. The GPS became my best friend – warning me just a teeny bit in advance of the curves and giving me hope that I would, sometime in this lifetime, arrive at my destination. As I concentrated on those hairpin turns, with nothing but mountains on one side and the inky blackness of the ocean I couldn’t see on the other, I noticed the radio was playing Wild Thing by Tone Loc. Consider yourself lucky if you have never heard this song.
“No, no, NOOO!” I shouted as I frantically switched the radio to scan. I thought, “Please God do not let this be the last song I hear as I am about to embark upon a three-day writing retreat.” For as horrible as the song is, it is the kind that will take up permanent residence in your brain, taking you one giant step further toward insanity. Alas, no other stations would come in. Not even NPR. Finally, the radio stopped on a station offering Gregorian chanting. Awesome! It seemed appropriate for a drive through the beautiful scenery that I wasn’t seeing. Anything but Tone Loc.
I finally arrived – cold, exhausted and aching. I had a quick dinner in the lodge, and I was too frazzled, tired and ill even to drink a glass of wine. Goes to show you there really is a first time for everything.
Luckily, that was by far the worst of the workshop experience. I’ve found it’s always good to start at the bottom, so you have no place to go but up.
More on the conference itself in the next post…
Have you ever had days or periods where you felt like your brain just shut down and wouldn’t function the way you needed it to? Or am I the only scatterbrain out there?