Words Are Freaking Hard, Man

What do you call a perpetual state of brain fog? Because that’s what I’ve been dealing with for several months (or the last four years, if you ask my boyfriend). It’s a good thing that I have a sense of humor because the hubby has begun documenting my grammatical snafus on the vacated “Life Goals” whiteboard behind my desk.

As the poor little hamster powering my brain wanders around in search of his beloved wheel, I’m left muttering, murmuring, and pointing to objects like a pre-verbal child. Words are freaking hard, man.

  • A pouty face paired with an index finger pointed at the sock that didn’t make it past my big toe due to post-puncture lumbar stiffness
  • An inquiry into where the “arm blood squeezer” is so I can write down my “heart numbers”
  • A blank stare as my boyfriend repeats his latest pun for the sixth time, followed by a “never mind”
  • That moment (four hours later) when I proudly figure it out: a yellow lab named Old Yeller. Get it? I do!!
  • Receiving a call and exclaiming, “Oh, I have to the techno!” Of course, I meant to say “I have to get the phone,” but life is more fun when you leave out the important words and tinker with traditional phrasing… and dance to imaginary techno music, apparently.

My boyfriend used to be an artist and gave me his 200-pack Prismacolor markers when we first started dating; it instantly felt like new worlds of opportunity opened up to me. My toolbox of creation was overflowing with all kinds of nifty things.

The rousing feeling reminded of that felt in the exciting discovery of a new word, phrase, or metaphor that has the potential to expand one’s ability to convey ideas. It was as if I’d acquired a new lens through which to see the world, and it made me swoon.

Several months ago, I read a poem by Ellen Bass and one line has stayed with me, despite my cognitive hamster going on strike. The poet watched a dolphin stitch the sunset to the sea. It’s such a lovely and poignant visual, and I wish I’d thought of it myself.

Words have been very hard for me lately. While I struggle to remember the names of everyday things like “coconut macaroon” and “blood pressure monitor,” the difficult part is trying to write coherently. I’ve always been a writer, yet the process now involves lots more pondering “how do I say that?” and revising the parts that make zero sense. Or, if I’m being honest, skipping the editing stage so I don’t need to face the errors. Sorry, guys.

It feels as if my 200-pack of markers was taken away, and I’m left with my childhood 12-pack of Crayolas. Earlier this year, I decided to pull myself up out of my writing slump and simply start sharing again. I didn’t realize at the time that the blockage was not simply a mental roadblock, but caused by a physical issue that is literally blocking oxygen flow to my brain. Ah!

That tiny pack of Crayolas does the job, but my creations are not as rich, vivid, and provocative as my past repertoire. Each word feel dull and lifeless, as if struggling to find it’s place in a large and daunting world. And, yet, the words I present here are the one that I’m allowed to go back and edit. When “arm blood squeezer” sounds wrong, it ends up on the “vocabulary fails” list. I wish I could give my oxygen-deprived brain the biggest hug for its valiant efforts wildly brilliant attempts at cohesion.

Here, on the page, I can converse with words, coaxing them out into the open. I can read and reread and change. Hmm, what’s a “monboob”? Ah, an attempt at “monsoon” that merged over into “haboob” without using the turn signal.

Though they’re not perfect, my words here (hopefully!) aren’t too laughably bizarre and erroneous. But if they are, who cares?! Dr. Seuss showed us all that strange scenarios and make-believe words aren’t always a bad thing. Through I’d prefer to emulate the likes of Bolaño, Dostoyevsky, Bradbury, and Huxley, I can also appreciate 300 pages of “what that hell is this?!”

Though I hope to soon regain my fully cognitive ability–tapping into my extensive vocabulary, discover new species of metaphors, and make new connections between differing concepts–I’m gaining a fondness for my tiny toolbox. This newly rediscovered 12-pack of Crayons gives me just enough “ompf” to say what needs to be said, without impregnating my lexicon with lofty ideas, haughty words, and other forms of excess.

I’m learning, slowly, to communicate with less, at least for now. In a world where laundry detergent is “shirt soap” and the phrases “drive safely” and “sweet dreams” are interchangeable, I’m becoming comfortable admitting that words are freaking hard.

But I’m also comfortable putting to use what I do have. This is where I am right now–mildly cognitively impaired with an entertainingly creative mind that is scrambling to make sense of the world, stringing together strands of imperfect words into a discordant paper chain of enchantment, visible only to me.

Words may be hard; phrasing may be flawed, and; concepts may be absurd. But even the humblest words carry power when backed with conviction.

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