A Mushy Mind

Is your mind mush?

My mind is mush. Not totally mush, I suppose. Just mushy. Very mushy.

I think this would be easier without kids. Quarantine, I mean. Imagine, if you will, that it is three in the morning. You are fast asleep. You hear a whisper.

“Dad.”

Are you dreaming?

Another whisper. A little louder. “Dad!”

No, this is all too real. You roll over in your bed.

A four-year old Samson is standing there. He is staring at you. He is clutching his stuffed cat that is named cat.

“Dad!”

“Yes?” you muster.

“Do you want to see my thinking face?”

Samson puts his hand under his chin and looks up at the ceiling.

In your head, you think this: “No, motherf@#$@@, I don’t want to see your ###%@@%@ thinking face!” Do you say this out loud? Of course not. You’re not a monster. Instead, you offer the only reasonable thing you can think to say:

“Oh.”

Sometimes Samson goes back to his room and falls asleep again. Sometimes he curls up in bed with you. Sometimes he decides to wake up. Starts driving his garbage truck around the house. On the wood floor. Loudly. And sometimes his six-year old brother Solomon joins him in the madness. Mostly, one thing holds true. You don’t sleep well. And your wife sleeps worse.

And then you wake up. You spend all day managing the bipolar, frenetic emotions of two boys with very little to do. And by you, I mean your wife. Because you, if you’re me, and you’re probably not, but go with me here, spend all day bouncing between virtual meetings, speaking virtually, working virtually, trying to pretend like the screams upstairs aren’t screams but, instead, are a babbling brook.

Was that a little confusing? Good. Then it captures my present moment. Writing can capture present moments. And this present moment is confusing.

Did I mention my mind is mushy?

***

Exponential growth is a heck of a thing. Prepare yourself for a math lecture from a man who was forcibly removed from Calculus during his senior year of high school.

So far as I can tell, exponential growth is the idea that something can grow exponentially. That definition not good enough? Let’s try again. Exponential growth means you can have something very small on the first day. Still pretty small on the second day. Or even the next week. But a month later, that something is huge. Enormous, even! So. In March you might have 50 cases of Covid-19. Less than a month later, you might have over 25,000 documented cases. And 25,000 cases, if you don’t do anything, become something else entirely the next month. Not convinced that Covid-19 is actually thing? I dare you to read anything (and I’m including Wikipedia here) about the Spanish Flu, or any other pandemic over the last however many thousand years. Stuff doesn’t look like a real problem until you’ve been overrun with the problem. Killed by the problem. Exponential growth.

We live in a very strange time. We have more information at our fingertips than our ancestors ever dreamed of. Science. Theology. Political science. History. Sociology. Psychology. There’s so many things to read and think about and learn about to get smarter. But there’s another thing that is true. Historically, people who yell the loudest and push the hardest get the final say on things. Hitler and Mussolini are extreme examples of this. Relatively recent examples, too. I’m sure you can think of other examples of loud yellers. These sorts of people often get the final say despite all the thinking and learning and writing that has been happened recently. Power wants power. Knowledge and wisdom and kindness be damned. And it seems to me that social media gives a powerful platform to lots of yellers. Yellers get more likes than whisperers. More people like a 20 lines tweet than they like these blogs, I can tell you that for certain! And those yellers with all the likes seem really good at convincing other people that they have an answer to problems. And then bad things happen outside of the virtual platform. I look at Facebook or Twitter and I see lots of yellers drowning out smart, kind, and humane people during this pandemic. And that makes me sad.

I found a quote about the Spanish flu this morning. Seems pretty relevant. It’s from this book.

In many ways, it is hard for modern people living in First World countries to conceive of a pandemic sweeping around the world and killing millions of people, and it is even harder to believe that something as common as influenza could cause such widespread illness and death.

This book.

Here’s another way to say that quote: It is hard for people living in the United States to conceive of a pandemic that can disrupt their way of living. Especially when it looks like the flu. Easier to call it a hoax.

***

I pride myself on not reacting to social media. To the inflammatory rhetoric of most news sources. Of most politicians. Of most of the posts I see when I scroll through my phone, trying to find some sort of escape from the seething and screaming energies that circulate my house. (Have I mentioned my mind is mushy?) Sometimes I do a good job. Sometimes I don’t.

It’s hard to do a good job right now. In my teaching. My parenting. My husbanding. My attempts to be kind to myself and others are just a little mushier. A month in the house will do that to you. Do it to your kids, too. Poor Solomon and Samson. They’re not enjoying this, either.

But I get it. I get why the nation with the most documented cases (and deaths from) Covid-19 is trying to do what it is doing. It makes me sad how divided people in this country seem to be about everything and anything and everything. Even when the thing is a virus without any political affiliation. According to what I see on social media, this country is a seething and screaming toddler, ready to impale itself on a spike. I’m reminded of a line from Allen Ginsberg’s poem America. America, this is the impression I get from looking at the television. At Facebook. That can’t actually be the case, can it America?

Who knows. I certainly don’t. My mind is mushy. I wouldn’t take my advice. For example, here’s the advice I gave Samson yesterday:

“Dad?”

“Yes, Samson.”

“I have a question.”

“Yes, Samson?”

“When I’m older I’m going to be a garbage man so I can live in a house with my purple cat and I’ll name my purple cat purple Meowasauras and I’ll feed my purple cat and give my purple cat a purple litter-box for my purple cat to use and I’ll give my purple cat a purple cat so that it can have a pet too.”

“Oh.”

That was my advice to my son about his future. Oh.

Mushy words for a mushy time. Stay safe and well, my friends. And may the mush begin to solidify for us all.

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