A.k.a A mind’s a terrible thing to waste, but a worse thing to lose
Written while listening to: “Human Again” — Genevieve
There’s a story by Plato that says humans were born with four arms, four legs, and two heads. But one day, we all got separated from each other, so we spend our lives looking for our other half — our soulmate. I used to love this story. Finding that person who is the puzzle piece that fits into you just right (not in a sexual way…well kinda) was always kinda my dream.
But kids? This beauty of this story is like Santa — a big fat jolly ‘ol lie.
And my Nana recently taught me this lesson…by never seeing it for herself.
My Nana’s got Alzheimers…but that didn’t stop her from having the a new romance that would make Nicholas Sparks take notes.
A few years after my Papa passed away, Nana went to a high school reunion, where she ran into Phil. He had a crush on her in High School whisked her away from their recent reunion…well, slowly and hunched over, but still.
Despite forgetting how to use a phone, trying to pour coffee cream onto waffles like it was syrup, getting confused by lettuce while trying to eat it with a spoon, with him she was happy — with him, she was functional.
When Phil took a bad fall, we figured sure, it’ll be hard for her not to be able to see Phil until he’s better. But she has us — she’ll manage.
It’s been two weeks without seeing Phil. Two weeks, and she’s gone from meticulous to someone who wears her bra outside of her shirt and doesn’t brush her hair. Who passes out from not eating because Phil’s not around to go with her. Who only wants us to stay at her place because we know how to use the phone…to try to call Phil.
My Mom said it best:
Two weeks not talking to him and she’s completely fallen apart.
My stomach sank when she said that. Because in that moment, my Mom wasn’t talking about a woman gripped by Alzheimers. She was talking about a woman who was ceasing to function without a man in her life, a woman who couldn’t think about anything else but talking to him, a woman who was not her own.
It was thren I realized that how Nana was dealing with Phil’s absence was all too familiar…because it was like seeing myself from the outside. Or worse…seeing my future.
And that terrified me.
I’ve always had strong dependent patterns with men strikingly similar to my Nana’s reaction to Phil’s absence.
I’ve spent 24 hours not eating and unable to stop crying at work because I thought a guy and I were over. I’ve become frozen in suspended self-esteem when I haven’t heard back from a dude. I’ve overthought conversations to the point that I’d be in a whirlpool of anxiety that kept me from being able to do or think about anything else. Solo, mind you. I handle this anxiety alone and only alone.
It’s gotten a lot better. I’ve gotten a lot better. A lot of those descriptions are past tense for a reason.
Yes, a mind is a terrible thing to waste…but it’s a worse thing to lose.
Waste your mind, you lose out…but you don’t know it. You live in ignorant bliss. Have your mind waste away until it’s lost? That’s involuntary. It’s the rape of lucidity, and you’re aware of every minute of it until even that is stolen from you. But to let your self-esteem, your interests, your plans, your time, your self revolve around another person? Well that’s losing your mind voluntarily.
I don’t want to be that. I want to be my own.
I’ve realized that my Grandma doesn’t really exist. Not for herself, anyways. My Grandma has lived her life to serve. In fact, her mental descent into Alzheimers started after my Grandpa died. She had existed to serve him, and with him gone…so was her purpose…until Phil came along and gave her a new one. She let others be her world, and never made one for herself.
. . .
I visited Nana last weekend, her nursing home room in disarray, papers scattered all over her desk, cushions strewn about.
My Mom found that piece of stationary on her desk. The “I Miss You” on that card wasn’t meant for us. It might have been, once, when she gave me the same stationary back in college that I could use to write to her with…and never did. Or when she could still write the multiple “xoxoxoxoxo’s” on cards. Or when I could have a conversation with her over the amazing spaghetti she would make me when I’d visit her condo — something I did far too few times and wish I could make up for.
But it was meant for Phil — a letter she had been trying to write him, the only thing she was still able to try to create…revolving around desperation for a man.
Meant for me or not, Nana, I do miss you. You’re here…but you’re not. But thank you for showing me that it’s time to make a change. I’m sorry that it had to come out of what you’re going through…but the death of your mind may have just saved mine.