Observing myself, I should be returning to Mindfulness, maybe listening to those Sam Harris meditations that my friend introduced me to, however something about his voice sounds a bit commanding, authoritarian, although some are actually quite short and neat so my thoughts can’t wander too much. But instead, I am playing “Trains.” For those of you unfamiliar with “Trains”, it is one of the games in the Lumosity program, part of a variety of math, brain switching, fill the coffee cup, follow the trajectory of the pinball, count the fish, divide the stones… Somehow I am at 14 in Trains which seems to be the end program of switching multicoloured trains from track to track.
To play Trains, you must safely direct your train to its stationhouse identified by its matching colour. You create circuits of a sort so that purple train can return to its purple station house while the orange, green, white, etc. trains are all quickly emerging and also need to find the correct paths on a variety of tracks and there is no surprise that because I am on level 14, there are14 trains, all quickly departing the one main station house, to direct! Every configuration is different and you must quickly switch and arrange the tracks so that your train arrives at the right station.
Sometimes when I see the tangle of tracks on the screen I think, I wonder which one most accurately reflects the pathways in my brain that must be switched, closed, altered for my behaviours that arise or the subsequent emotions that will accompany or prelude my actions. Most likely my brain patterns are reflected by the multicoloured mixup of tangled yarns I knot with -that can be straightened out by either carefully unwinding strands or just breaking them, but in this game, the trains if not properly sorted will find their end in the wrong houses: useless for scoring points. As well, a defeated, angry or frustrated noise is released by the player, me.
But as there is a lesson to be learned from all endeavours, or so they say, even though the gambler or game addict most often returns in hopes of winning and being successfully to demonstrate she can beat the system and retire as champion, what I have learned from this is that if I am calm, I have a pretty good chance of being successful in this game. However the moment one train arrives at the incorrect location, I lose my concentration, my cool and shout out, become flustered and inevitably lose the opportunity to get the next two trains to their colour-coded stations: until I can take a breath. At this point, I know the pursuit is really over so instead of the excitement of the adrenalin win, I retire to a state of –maybe just finish this off… and try again.
But this pattern is not new for me. I am an emotional person whose feeling overrun my behaviours. I am aware of the bubbling core that composes me but even as I ascertained this in my work place, as a trembling voice at an interview or an angry look at a colleague belied a smooth carefully planned countenanceas. I am victim to the emotions that are barely hidden beneath my skin’s surface. It is as if there has been a battle between the rational and emotional sectors in my body with my silly brain deciding to champion those unruly messy parts, my ego and superego battling and one or the other attempting to actually trip me up. In my head, I can see the cheerleaders in their fuzzy red sweaters jumping wildly around, encouraging the spurters and screamers and crazy types who run wildly in circles, encouraging the floods that are coursing through body, causing my face to redden and my knees to quake. In my head I command this cheerleader squad to return to the bench for a breather, move on, sit by the sidelines, quiet down, but a tiny voice murmurs to this wild and inflammable crew of miscreants with a chortle, just watch this girl be swamped by her feelings and screw up. So I consciously and serenely must assert, oh no, you won’t. I’m able to be in charge here. Well, sometimes…
In Trains, the combinations move too quickly for this fight, but the result of a misplaced train triggers those real messy emotions, the flashes of anger and then eventual resignation, chin tipped downward in despair and defeat, for the game is all ready lost.
I wonder why is that battle present at all: between my emotions and my rational being who evidently roots for my undoing by my unruly surging emotions. Is it the rational part of me taunting me, “ Give in, these are the principal residents in you: that is who you are; so let them roam and jump and scurry over the top and main floor of your head; we rational thoughts with pencils tucked neatly behind our ears in gray flannel suits are quite happy following recipes, making phone calls and adding sums?
For so much of my life, the emotions ( “Pat,” admonishes my father, “You are too sensitive,” as the tears begin to drip on my cheeks as he is attempting for the umpteenth time, to explain chemistry to me; or “Pat, pay attention to the road when you drive.”; Of course, it is sensible not silly to watch the road when you are learning to drive) did run ram shod over me.
So that is what occurs in my head, the dueling factions, but even my body seems out to be out to trick me. Last night, nicely dressed and put together, as we went to our seats in a restaurant, my new boots slid on the floor and had I not grabbed the back of another’s seat, I would have fallen hard: tripping is also one of my specialties as I forget that I have feet that must be co-ordinated. In fact my mother started me at ballet because my feet appeared to be encased in cement and even then I was hitting rocks and curbs with my sad little knees. My husband as we take our seats, turns around once I’ve stabilized my errant boots and says, “There is a 60% chance that you are always going down.” Then looking thoughtful, he says, “Strange- as you can contort your body in Pilates and you are flexible for over an hour at class, but you can’t ever seem to walk a straight line.” But there most often, my bum is the centre of gravity and all ready on the ground and I do not have to contend with hips, knees, ankles or rowdy toes.
I think of the recent almost trips again, just yesterday :over raised seams on cement sidewalks and this last potentially fatal one as my new boots slid across the cement floor. As we ate our supper for 2 ½ hours, no one else, in boots, flip flops or oxfords even appeared to lose a millisecond of balance. And yet for me, a tiny hillock, an uneven pavement, a floor of varying material can cause my literal downfall. At one vineyard wedding, one guest discretely whispered, “You fell so elegantly” and fortunately my purple knees matched my purple dress.
After years of falling down ( not to mention the curb walks home from elementary school that I thought might stand in for tight rope wires and always resulted in scabs and blood trickling down to my socks,) I have finally accepted that bumbling part of me. I know one leg is slightly shorter than the other, as is the case with almost everyone on the planet, but mine has a disposition to go its own way, saying to its partner, “So long chum, I’m setting off now, so take care.” And so I have concluded that inevitably, the confrontations between my body and gravity and surfaces beneath are truly not my fault.
In terms of my emotions overrunning my demeanour, now retired, I am not concerned should my expressive face give me away, for a sudden tear or a shaking pencil will not impact on my delivery. Back when I did work at my profession, the efficacy of my work, my research, my professionalism did happily overrule the messy parts. In deed, I knew how to draw on emotional effect for purposeful manipulation ; and eventually even my well rehearsed and memorized presentations became performances that could be altered like a knowledgeable thespian because I had an excellent script to play off and my emotions were tamed, governable. But no longer is there that need.
Still I wonder at my brain, my mind that like the control tower still sends bad or conflicting thoughts, even in Pilates, when it whispers, you will topple and I silently respond, “Be quiet you; NO, I won’t.” I wonder at the tangle of train tracks, and the routes that require straightening, reconnecting and aligning to get me from one destination to another. I wonder at the voices in my head, my parents, my teachers, my own fears that try to trick me up so I have to reassert myself or find better solutions. I wonder at my feet that often seem totally unconnected to my body and want to go off on their own routes. And I consider that I am a mess and mass of electrical wires, circuitry and connections- much as my father used to rearrange on every cake box when I was young.
I suppose that is all we are, except for those damn emotions that light our faces, make us giggle, cast us into doom, tickle our imaginations and make us special. At 68, I am who I am, having learnt I must attempt to balance on a tightrope whenever something truly important chugs up to my door.