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Friday
Dec022011

Stroke of Insight

 
I am reading a book by a woman named Jill who had a stroke, and eventually reclaimed all her abilities. The interesting part is that she is a neuroscientist and knows more than everyone on my street about the brain. Maybe everyone in my time zone. She understood the loss of language and motor skills even as they were seeping away into the air. She chronicles the conflict of struggling to get help, yet being enticed by the supremely unscientific feeling that enveloped her as her brain succumbed to internal bleeding. 
 
"I am one with everything," she realized.
 
Now that she can again communicate, she articulates what it felt like to have people be disrespectful or dismissive, simply because she could not volley back words at a speed that leaves the less learned in the ditch. She began thinking in pictures, which are harder to pronounce. Jill certainly had emotions, and opinions, and enough intelligence to impress the hiring staff at Harvard. But in that moment, the gap between what swirled inside of her and the waiting world outside her mouth was too vast to cross. 
 
Some people are fluent at expressing feelings. It certainly happens in the movies. The leading man says just the right thing to make the girl feel completely understood. She swoons into his arms and they kiss. But off the set, regular people in actual relationships have been known to miss their cue. Sometimes it is because they are dividing their attention between the person in front of them and their phone, and the crescendoing voices coming from upstairs, and the issues at work. Other times it is because the words catch and snag on the way out of their chest. Perhaps they are thinking in pictures... like the two of you arm in arm, softly bathed in the waning light of the setting sun... but the ability to get there has leaked out the bottoms of your feet. We who have the perfect words stacked and ready to be launched may feel dismissive or impatient with people for whom words are a second language. But our verbosity can be our biggest flaw, if it blinds us to the unspoken world waiting on the other side of our partner's closed lips.