Childhood, Gardening, Places, Stories

The Brain That Changes

I was in the bathtub soaking up the warmth while listening to my special playlist. It’s comprised of songs that I like to sing along with, that for whatever reason make me happy. Some of the songs are not good and I don’t know why they carry such emotional resonance. Some of the songs used to carry a negative connotation, but don’t anymore.

For example, when symptoms are unpleasant and my body is freaking out, one of the best songs to listen to is “I’ve Seen All Good People” by Yes. Growing up in the 70s, this was a song I heard often while my parents partied with friends. These are not good memories. This should not be a feel good song. However, for whatever reason, I put this song on the playlist I made when Davin and I did our 20th anniversary desert road trip, so when I hear this song, my mind does not conjure old associations. Instead, I find myself happily driving the winding roads through Joshua Tree National Park, laughing, singing along, and taking in the stunning views. It doesn’t belong to my parents anymore.

Our brains are powerful and can change our relationship to things in amazing ways.

While in the tub “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Captain & Tennille came on. I’m wary of this song and play it more as an exploration in memory. When I was little, around four, I LOVED this song wildly. I have no idea why. Perhaps I saw them perform on tv and was taken by the gimmick of a captain figure who plays piano? No clue. All I know is that when this song came on in the car, I would stand upright, wave my arms in the air, and sing boldly, loudly, particularly at the “STOP” part (seatbelts were not much of a thing back then). I have very distinct memories of driving on countryside roads with steep hills and standing up, belting out this song, and feeling the rollercoaster effect moving through my system. It was a very freeing experience.

When I look back on my childhood, I am surprised by how free and spirited I could be despite my circumstances. By four I’d already been through so much and had recently been in a car accident with my stepfather who was driving drunk at the time. There were lots of good reasons to be fearful and shut down. To show myself, to stand upright in a car and express my aliveness, to feel the intensity of those up and down waves—that was dangerous. And that little girl who was me was afraid, but she was also defiant and strong. She protected her inner light fiercely in the face of much adversity, yet let it out now and again, even in the face of terrible consequences.

Our brains can change our relationship to things, experiences, places—to varying degrees, we are all living with suffering and adversity, because they are part of the human condition. We are all different and all the same, carrying some small inner light & looking for a safe place to reignite it and nurture it back into a flame. This is one reason why I love gardening. It’s like permission to play in a complex, living sandbox. A way of rewiring the brain. A safe place to be human.

Written November 2020. Photos taken on desert road trips, 2013 and 2014.

This entry was posted in: Childhood, Gardening, Places, Stories

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