Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tending my garden

Well, more about this "garden of the mind" business. Yesterday I watched "I've Loved You So Long," a French movie about a woman who spends 15 years in prison after murdering her 6-year-old son. You don't find out the details until the end of the movie, but it is very moving, especially to someone who has lost a child. She explains that she wanted to go to prison, because the loss of a child is a prison from which there is no escape.

I stopped this morning on my way out of the gym to watch the little toddlers playing in daycare, and I remembered there was a time when I could not even be in the same room with an infant without extreme emotional pain. Now I relish them, and I watched a baby around six or eight months old figure out how to put a building block into a holder. His fat little fingers and chubby arms used to cause me to experience severe pain, merely looking at him and realizing that my own little guy would never return.

There is escape from the prison of emotional pain. The passage of time and basically just continuing to live in the world helped to heal my wound. It took a decade before I realized that being around small children once more brought me joy. In Jill Taylor's book (mentioned in the previous blog, this link goes to her own website, My Stroke of Insight) gives the reader specific ways to change what you want to change by tending the garden of your mind, and gives you tips on how to do it.
Regardless of the garden I have inherited, once I consciously take over the responsibility of tending my mind, I choose to nurture those circuits that I want to grow, and consciously prune back those circuits I prefer to live without. Although it is easier for me to nip a weed when it is just a sprouting bud, with determination and perseverance, even the gnarliest of vines, when deprived of fuel, will eventually lose its strength and fall to the side.
The hard part is recognizing what is a weed and what you want to cultivate. In her book, she gives, over and over again, ideas about how to access the right hemisphere of your brain: feel how something affects your body, whether you like the way a person (or experience, or an emotion) makes you feel. When her left brain was compromised and she couldn't understand language, she knew when someone visited her who cared for her and would talk to her in a soothing tone of voice, she would relax and smile -- just the opposite would happen when someone shouted and expressed anger at her.

So, my task for the next few days is to notice these things: what makes me feel good, and what makes me feel bad. Writing in this blog definitely makes me feel good, and communicating with you, dear reader, makes me feel the bright laser beam of conscious thought between us is growing my garden in a way I enjoy. I'm digging in the fertile medium of words, playing.


  1. Beautiful and brave. And I like the way you connect with your past blogs, the little thread of continuity.

  2. I think of you when I'm writing... because I know you are reading my blogs and often I write directly to you. Here's a big virtual hug.

  3. "We must tend our garden," said Voltaire in Candide. But that doesn't mean we can't wave across the fence to our neighbor, now and again. And maybe even send them some of the fruits of our labors.

    Hug back at ya, sis.


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