I headed out from home this morning, my mind slow and relaxed. What is it today, Wednesday? Wednesdays are nice. But then so are Tuesdays, and Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Fridays and Sundays. A Wednesday might have a different flavor than a Sunday, but it is just as enjoyable. This morning I am confident that the day will be filled with plenty of interesting activities for my mind and for my body. I take a few minutes to go outside in the near-dawn; what a peaceful way to begin the day.
It bothers me when the morning newspeople say on a Friday: "Congratulations! You made it through the week!" That means they throw away 5/7 of their life.
Another picture of the view from the front of our house just before the sun came up is on the next page.
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I was wrong in my State of Mind post on Jan 25, when I stated that thinking of a very emotional time in my life is not totally unpleasant.
This revelation came yesterday. Members of the ALL support list have been posting their diagnosis stories, and I volunteered to put them up on a web page. Okay, so, everyone is posting their stories of how their child was diagnosed with leukemia and I find myself not reading them. "No time" I tell myself. This goes on for a while, then comes the moment when I'm actually copying the stories into html. "I should read these and edit them as I go" I tell myself. Still I hold back. Finally my editing sensibilities get the best of me (I have to change theirs to there's or bare to bear or add paragraphs, these things drive me buggy) and I begin reading the recounts of diagnoses.
And it hit me. Reading the stories forced me to think of a specific time when James was diagnosed. Whoa. It hurt like heck. The moment that comes to me is a certain image that is too private - I am not going to share this image with you. It was a moment that marks a change in the way we were to live from then on out, and I knew it at that moment. A mom, her kid, the kid is different in her eyes than any other kid on this earth, the kids are supposed to be able to grow up without cancer. What we had been told by the doctors was unfathomable.
So. I can recall some generalities from those emotional years that give me the "you were so alive" feelings, but I did not realize that I was blocking from recall some particular moments. Those moments, they made me not even want to be alive.
It was totally unpleasant.
Last night I fell asleep then suddenly I was clawing and scratching my way up, up out of a dream or something else, terrified, thinking, no, KNOWING: I will die. I finally woke up enough to know that I was not going to die right then, but the thought lingered, "you will die someday". My heart was racing and I could barely catch my breath. Death is such a hard concept to deal with, since all we know is life, but life will end, everything that we know will end. Despair.
I am quite familiar with this dream or whatever it is, as it happens with some regularity when I first fall asleep. Jarred awake, eventually I am able to sort out my normal rational state and get back to sleep. But sometimes I think that this is why people have trouble falling asleep, that to fall into a state of sleep we have to get past some sort of barrier, perhaps "go through a door", perhaps our subconscious shows a dark monster grabbing us, pulling us through; sometimes we wake up just as we are grabbed. To fall asleep is to let go of life as we know it, we enter a different realm over which we have no control. Sleep is a sort of death.
Biology and Human Behavior, The Neurological Origins of Individuality, by Robert Sapolsky, is my current Teaching Company CD course. I highly recommend it. Early in the course he discusses connections between the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the cortex. The cortex is where our rational thoughts occur, the ANS controls our breathing, heartrate, all that stuff. The cortex can regulate the ANS in a way that is fairly unique to primates, in that cortical "projections" are sent to the limbic system to activate the ANS.
So what is Sapolsky's example of cortical regulation of the ANS? His words: "Think about the fact that you are going to die. The ANS is activated and your heart beats faster, your blood pressure rises, you breathe fast and begin to sweat."