By Dana Gornall
Pulling my car into the garage just like every other day, I shut the engine off and collected the various debris of things that needed brought inside.
I shuffled my feet toward the door of my house, my mind unfocused and buzzing in that numb tone of all that is needing done and all that has been done for the day. It was then that I was jarred alert by the front edge of my sandal hooking a ridge of concrete in the floor. Catching myself from falling flat onto the floor of the garage I looked down and cursed.
The very next day, I repeated the scenario, shuffling my feet from the car to the door and tripping in the exact same spot. I looked a little closer at the uneven break that had somehow appeared out of nowhere in the muted gray garage floor.
When had this shift in the ground occurred?
I hadn’t remembered tripping in this spot before. The seemingly rock-solid floor which was mostly smooth other than a few pits and cracks here and there, suddenly formed a jagged crest, about eight or nine inches long, raised and pressing ominously forward, eager to catch the attention of anyone walking in an unfocused and numb-minded state.
Cursing again, my brain made a note (as brains often do to avoid making the same mistakes again) and I moved on toward the door.
This whole image played out in my head for a few moments afterward, because the mind tends to do that (or at least my mind seems to). I thought about how things shift unknowingly and slowly over time, how the stress on an object pressing down each and every day forces the slightest motion over time until finally breaking down something that was once solid and apparently unable to be moved.
And it was all of this—the mind numbness and the feet shuffling and the sudden jarring back to alertness—that made me think about love.
I’ve been circling some sort of a drain lately. Whether it is a drain or just an eddy placed strategically in the river I have been floating on, is yet to be determined. But the point is, I have been circling.
We all get hurt. We all start out with ideas and ideals of the way things are supposed to go. Isn’t it some kind of rite of passage to be young and think that you know what you are doing? Cocky and somewhat sure that you are ahead of the game or somewhere at the front of the line, you push forward onto a path haphazardly chosen because you are ready to leave behind something or someone. And then somewhere along the way you find a break in the ground—a piece of something that was once thought to be solid, suddenly displaced and uneven and you are left wondering when that shift occurred.
And then the mind makes a note (as minds often do). The ground is not as sturdy as we once thought.
There are pitfalls and breaks in places and if we aren’t careful we will find ourselves face-forward onto the ground—scratched and bruised and maybe a little broken. And what does one do when she finds that even rock solid surfaces shift over time? When after years of stress and pressure placed again and again on something, it can wear and break down?
Looking closer at all of the dips and bends in the brain, it is found that a part of the brain—the hippocampus—is our main center for learning. It is here where we take that new phenomena (how to multiply fractions, how to tie a shoe, how to make coffee) into longterm storage so that we can readily pull the information back up with ease. Each new experience, each new sight that is seen, each new dish that is tasted, travels from the prefrontal cortex to our hippocampus and gets filed away as a memory to be used again at a later time.
Here’s the rub—this beautiful permanent hard drive that we store all that we need is subject to a stress hormone called cortisol. Under a certain amount of stress, after a certain length of time, the neurons in the hippocampus begin to die or become disabled in some fashion. What is left is often that stressful response, that upsetting emotion, that jarring awake of being forced to realize that something is no longer solid.
And it is here that we often become stuck.
Branded forever as an open wound, our brains tell us this was not something we want to repeat again. Everything in our being yells out, DANGER! DANGER!
And so I’m left circling.
When chatting with a friend recently, I said I was unsure of the validity of love. Yes, I’ve read beautiful collections of words that make up love poems and stories that have stirred my heart; I have been brought to tears watching films and I have felt the hurricane of emotion that flooded my entire being when my eyes locked onto that of my children soon after birth.
So, I know there is love.
But caught between the trepidation of hidden places to trip and fall, the gaping wounds left seared into those parts of my brain that have killed off those neurons or left them crippled in some way, the rustling awake of emotions I dampened down with tears shed too many nights, I’m still circling.
I look at love the same way I see God, I told my friend. I’m unsure. It may be there, it may be real, and I want to believe, but I just don’t know.
Returning home from bringing my daughter back from cheer practice, I rounded the rear of my car toward the door. Lifting my sandaled foot I glided easily over the broken edge in the concrete, aware now of possibility of tripping.
What is your idea of love? For the month of September The Tattooed Buddha and Rebelle Society will be collaborating to highlight the meaning of love. Send submissions to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor: Ty H. Phillips