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The Brain by Laurie Mirkin

MYOB (Mind Your Own Brain) by Laurie Mirkin

| Sande Caplin |

Laurie’s life has involved a lot of reinvention.  Now, at age 60 plus, she has done it again. New location. New job. New relationship. New healthy lifestyle. She has embraced chaos, change, growth, and grey hair with equal abandon.  The only thing that Laurie will never reinvent is her sense of humor. Thank goodness for that.

Perhaps I’m a little overly-concerned with the condition of my brain, but it’s scary to think that you could be entering full dementia and even your best friend might not tell you.  Ask me the words to all the songs in the 60’s and 70’s and who played what instrument in what band and I would be the music version of Jeopardy’s Grand Champion, but please don’t ask me what I ate for breakfast because I can’t remember.  And I don’t feel like digging in the trash, thanks.

It seems irresponsible to do nothing and not worry about whether you’re taking the right supplements, doing all those clever puzzles that Dr. Daniel Amen sells as part of his brain longevity infomercial on PBS, or reading enough material to keep neuroplasisity occurring ini your brain.
 I speak to my friend Liz every day.  I report to her what’s going on, fill her in on anything controversial, and every single time we speak she says “you already told me that twice.”  Then I start getting paranoid that I’m really losing it.  And then there are the “talks” I have periodically with my significant other.  Or are they lectures? (and should I be taking notes?)


I learned a long time ago to rely on my very vivid imagination to temporarily escape from a situation where you’re losing valuable time, merely having to say, “yes”, “no”, shake your head,  or say “of course, honey, you’re 100% correct.”  During such lectures I prefer to exercise my brain by formulating mental grocery lists or figuring out whose birthday it is and remembering to buy a card.  If the lecture lasts longer than usual I continue on in my list-making to what’s on TV that night and what I’m making for dinner.  Works real well for me, and my man doesn’t know the difference.

The fantasy part of your brain and the need to utilize it for a healthy “escape” is certainly of extreme importance in surviving day-to-day in this very challenging and complicated world. I strongly encourage you to develop your imagination for many reasons.  For those of you who are reading junkies, ( you read cereal boxes, milk cartons, the classifieds, and of course, books of all sorts, in person or on your Kindle or tablet), what could be worse than being caught waiting in a long line somewhere, or at the airport, without ANYTHING to read?  It’s an UNBEARABLE thought and I’ve let it happen too many times.  You have to immediately turn to Plan B, which is, daydreaming, meditating, fantasizing or contemplating.  Take your pick, as they all work once you get in the groove.

There are times like these, when you have nothing to amuse yourself with except your smart phone that you can keep your brain well-oiled and functioning at full tilt by entertaining fantasies, and I don’t necessarily mean sexual fantasies.  My favorite fantasy is about winning the Power Ball Lottery and the far-away places in the world where I would buy alternate residences. Part of that fantasy is having an expensive automobile for each day of the week and for every mood.  I was even thinking about getting a Harley but the fact that I can’t lift 75lbs put that idea out of the realm of probability.  The world is your oyster when you’re using your imagination.  It’s not that I don’t think sexual fantasies are healthy, but at this point in my 55+ years, I’m much more oriented toward material dreams.

Now I’m not saying you should be a legend in your own mind, but the meditating and day-dreaming opens you up to a new world of endless possibilities.  I had three goals I wanted to accomplish in life and so far I haven’t committed to any of them and the clock is really ticking away.  I wanted to learn to play the violin, ride a horse really well, and speak fluent Italian.  Those pesky fantasies are really goals, unattained, and only serve to remind me that I am the Mistress of Procrastination.  Yet they have provided me with many good fantasies.

My point in all this is that you can buy a truckload of ginkgo biloba,  take a daily maximum dose of Omega-3’s , imbibe microalgae in large doses, and take L-glutamine till the cows come home but if you’re not challenging your brain in any other way,  just open your window and throw all those pills out.  You’re better off doing crossword puzzles, word finders and reading books on subjects that interest you.  Don’t warm the bench, get out there and be a player.

I was invited to a neighbor’s get-together recently and it was my opportunity to meet my neighbors and basically “interview” them.  I mean, how else are you going to know if he/she might be an interesting friend to have without asking questions?  The woman sitting next to me has the house across the street from mine.  I never see her outside the house or even driving away in her SUV.  So I asked her if she’d like to get together sometime soon.  She said “Sure.  What would we do?”  I asked her about going to the beach and just walking and talking.  “Oh, I don’t walk”.  “Do you like going to the movies?” I asked.  “No, I never go to the movies.”  This “interview” was becoming quite challenging. “Do you read?”  “Not really”. “Watch TV?” No, I don’t enjoy TV.”  All the time she was talking she was dragging off a cigarette and lighting one off the other. I backed away very quietly and in a state of disbelief.  I could only imagine her sitting alone in her house, chain-smoking and talking to her dog.  I looked over at her and was wondering if one could see “brain rot” in another person’s head, but I thought to myself, mind your own brain.

It boils down to “use it or lose it”, which is an expression I’ve always disliked, but there is much truth in it.  I think we need to be less interested in all the various ways of getting the maximum benefit from exercise equipment and electronic devices and make mental notes, or better yet,  journal your thoughts.  Some day when you are in desperate need of something familiar and organic to read, those journals will bring back powerful memories that generate activity in your brain, warm your heart and provide a wealth of beautiful thoughts to keep your mind busy.

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