Day Twenty-Four: Squirrel Brain

I f*cked up this morning. Nobody died, and it all worked out for the best, as things usually do. But I left a colleague and some students in the lurch by not showing up for a class I’d committed to sub.   As recently as this Wednesday, I was aware I was supposed to teach this class, but somehow, by last night, I un-knew it. The worst part is it’s not the first time I’ve spaced out on a subbing gig at this particular studio, which is, in a word, mortifying. Dependability is one of my core values, a quality I prize in others, and consider a strength of my own. I felt deeply embarrassed at my mistake. So what happened?

SQUIRREL BRAIN. It’s been one of those weeks when I’ve had a lot going on, the kind of stress that isn’t catastrophic enough that you have to put everything on hold to deal with it, but instead you just pick up another stick, balance a plate on it, and start spinning. Yes, there was the fallout from John’s encounter with a falling tree limbCZPnAxwWEAAWyXS, and also, Mia’s mild fender-bender late last week. I suppose I may have been feeling some mild aftershocks.

But most of what’s been going on is truly positive: starting with the neuroscience course (OMG: fascinating); keeping up with the daily posts; singing the national anthem at the Celtics game. Just this week, I added another iron to the fire by joining forces with a number of kickass women to explore founding a women’s innovation cooperative in an ideal location that’s recently opened up nearby. (This venture, in particular, feels like it’s moving at warp speed.) My Nia classes were lovely and I got hired for another Ageless Grace teaching job. It’s all good stress.   But at some point, my processing speed surpassed my memory capacity. So I just kept doing things…faster. That’s squirrel brain.

What’s really interesting is that I didn’t sense when this was happening to me. Looking back over the week, I don’t see any major red flags. A “symptom” of squirrel brain onset for me is that I stop taking care of my body: I overeat (especially sugar), I forget to drink water, or I have that extra glass of wine. I become a “brain on a shelf,” as if the sole purpose of my existence is to process information at higher and higher rates of speed, and my body is just an afterthought.   Perhaps you are thinking to yourself, “wait a minute.  Aren’t you a fitness teacher?”   Well, knock me down offa that pedestal because I am a work in progress at best when it comes to practicing all that I preach. I hope that my struggles in this arena make me a more compassionate teacher.

The one thing I did notice was that I wasn’t downshifting enough in the evenings.  I resisted sleep, staying up an extra hour or two, often “working on” truly unnecessary stuff, like obsessively reading Nate Silver’s 538 blog posts about the Nevada caucuses, or filling out a friend’s Oscar pool. (“Spotlight” is my pick, if you must know. I realize that’s a provincial choice for a Bostonian, but it is a movie about Boston provincialism, after all.   I was amazed at how the filmmakers made such a suspenseful stew out of mundane ingredients like reading parish directories and racing to use the copier.   My runner up: “Mad Max.” So much post-apocalyptic fun. And no CGI? Seriously? Mind. Blown. Here’s my vote for the biggest, frozen snooze: “The Revenant.”   Nice to look at, but not much there there, story-wise. It’ll probably win, and that’ll be the last bear claw in the coffin containing the Oscars’ cultural relevance in an increasingly diverse society.)

See how squirrel brain works? I just found a new little nut (the Oscars) and ran off to chew on it without even thinking about whether it was snack time.   The antidote: freeze frame.  Slow down.  Smell the moment.  And give up some of your

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