I’m losing my ability to talk. To converse. To have thoughts that contribute to the thoughts of another. Conversation is an art where two (or more) share and build and verbally step forward and backward and around in circles creating a masterpiece of words and connections and new thoughts and ideas, bringing in experiences and questions, quotes and ideas and stories. It’s beautiful when it’s done well. But it’s an art I’ve largely forgotten.
I’ve been trained to be an extrovert (who hasn’t these days?) but I thrive as an introvert. Lost in my head, pacing up and down halls of memories, piles of ideas, to do lists papering the fridge, and shelves of books I’ve once read; I told Ted in our first year of marriage that sometimes when he talks to me, he’s interrupting. There is always something happening in my head. He got it, but he saw it when we watched BBC’s Sherlock using his mind palace. Benedict Cumberbatch stopping his physical movement so he can search in his mind in his mind palace to look for the information and assemble the thoughts he has collected.
Some may call this process “just thinking,” but I like the mind palace description because it explains why my recall is slower. I have further to wander in my wondering. I’ve always had to stop in my mind, turn around and look for the room where those sections of thoughts are stored. It makes me awkward sometimes.
A conversation about Donald Trump’s ideas on Muslim deportation begins, and I have to leave the “mommy keeping baby from pulling the vacuum on his head” room and find the wing where my undergrad has been piled. Along the way I stumble on a book I’ve just been reading, All the Light We Cannot See, that journeys the moral difficulty of an orphaned German soldier who believes in supporting his sister but not the Reich. And then I find Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem where she introduces the banality of evil. Sitting next to that is this article from the New Yorker’s coverage of the Aurora shooting and the quote, “Precisely the belief that evil actions require evil intentions allowed totalitarian regimes to convince people to override moral objections that might otherwise have function.” And by the time I come back to the room with the initial conversation of the alarm that Trump is still an actual candidate to be U.S. President–my arms full of files, books, quotes, thoughts–the discussion has moved on, and the baby is crying because I didn’t catch the vacuum before it landed on his head.
I don’t know if baby brain is as much a loss of my brain power as it is a result of the fact that another human being is using my brain. Or, I’m using my brain, on his behalf, to keep him alive and maintain the boundaries around the little world that will allow him to grow up.
Girls I knew before baby sometimes come over, sit through dinner and help with bedtime. Then we pour the wine and sit to talk on my leather couches like we used to. And I don’t know what to say. to ask. I don’t want to talk about my kid, but my legs are tired from the day, and I can’t get down the halls in mind palace to find something of substance to say. So I stare blankly or let Ted do the talking, and wonder when I’ll be able to be a conversationalist again.