Whole Brain Living

I’ve been following Jill Bolte Taylor since she had her stoke. Imagine at the age of 37, losing your capacity to talk, read, write, or recall the history of your life. But she recovered. And she has studied her healing every since.

Today I decided to listen to a podcast as I took my afternoon walk. I flipped my finger on my phone until it landed on Ten Percent Happier, a podcast I rarely miss. However, I hadn’t heard this one with Jill Bolte Taylor. Wow, I was so focused, I nearly tripped over a tree root.

Here’s a brief summary I’ve copied from her website. (I’ve now bought the book on Audible!)

She says: Our Four Characters take turns running our life. Our Character 1 goes to work, our Character 2 wants to make sure we are safe, our Character 3 gets us outside to play in the sun, and our Character 4 comes out when we feel grateful and connected to others.

Call a BRAIN Huddle, she says, when we want to make sure we are being who we want to be.

B for Breathe: Our breath is always with us.

R for Recognize: Once you bring your mind into the present moment, recognize which of your Four Characters you were exhibiting when you called the BRAIN Huddle.

A for Appreciate: Regardless of which character called the Huddle, appreciate the fact that you have four different characters and ask them all to participate in the Huddle.
(This is particularly important when our fear-based Character 2 has been triggered and could use some support.)

I for Inquire: Invite all Four Characters into the huddle, so they can collectively voice their opinions and consciously strategize your next move.

N for Navigate: Life is made up of sequential moments and once our Four Characters are all in the BRAIN Huddle, we then have the power to choose which character we would like to have come out next. This is how we own our power, and no one can take our power away from us. With all of our Four Characters gathered in the BRAIN Huddle, we can choose moment by moment who and how we want to be.

I have to admit, this brings out my Character #2 in full force and makes me want to take a nap! But her explanation of it on the podcast has given me a reason to learn more.

Practice this 20 times a day, she says. It takes an instant “pause.” Become familiar with the characters. It’s like learning a new language.

I do love learning.

This is it.

A friend pulled me up short the other day.

“This is it,” she said. “Stop planning your death.”

I hadn’t realized how much I talk about dying: where, when, how. All the details.

In some ways, I believed that planning would make it seem less stressful. But what has happened is that I focus so much on the end, I forget I am here now. This poem by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer says it all:

This is it, I think, as I lie in bed, not wanting to leave the warmth.

This is it, my feet meet the cold wood.

This is it, I water the orchid.

This is it, I boil water, make tea.

I think, I’ll be a better person tomorrow.

This is it, me dreaming of fresh starts.

This is it, defuzzing the sweater.

This is it, paying bills, answering mail, frying eggs, washing pans.

No life but this one.

No fresh start but here.

This is it, the cat sits on my papers.

This is it, the phone doesn’t ring.

This is it, the floors need mopping,

the letter needs written, the class needs planned.

This is it, me wishing I could be more perfect.

This is it, this. This only. Only this.

This is it, this flutter in my chest

when the sun enters the room,

the natural leaning toward the light.

This is it, this silence.

This cold. This warmth.

This longing. This song on my lips.

A Headache By Any Other Name

Photo by Carolina Heza on Unsplash

I used to take two Excedrin every morning.

For years.

When I’d visit my primary care and mention it, she’d ask all the right questions, but nothing seemed to help. I finally got an MRI. Two actually. I tried Craniosacral therapy, nasal sprays for slight allergy, and deep breathing.

When I started getting secondary headaches in the late afternoon and needed tylenol or ibuprofen (no Excedrin late in the day because of the caffeine), I decided to read about rebound headaches. Ahhhh. Perhaps I was taking too much over-the-counter medication. Most people recommend no more than 15 days each month.

So I stopped cold turkey. The first few days were painful, but lots of water and deep breathing seemed to help. I kept telling my brain that there was nothing to fear, that the pain would soon subside. And it did, finally.

We will see how it goes. It seems unlikely that more than 20 years of daily headaches will be over just like that. But reading this today also supported my belief that pain can be managed.

Although I awoke in the middle of the night for other reasons, I awoke again this morning headache-free.

Now let’s continue to work on those middle of the night issues :)

Other things I’m reading:

Her poetry

I put this book on hold at the library (and look at the poetry on my friend Donna’s site while you are there/ She tells wonderful stories through her photos)

“You still have your problems but they are not on the shore” A film worth watching….

Quiet Please

I live in two places.

For nine months out of the year, I live in a historic town where we walk to the library and coffee shops. The sounds of the city seem to shout 24-7: the garbage trucks beeping, the motorcycles revving engines as they show off on our small streets, horns honking, people talking as they walk home from a bar at 2am, and, since we live on an emergency route, the never-ending ambulance and fire trucks blasting horns as they race past our house.

In Rhode Island, we live in a small community situated on a salt pond with access to a barrier beach. Birds start chirping outside my open bedroom window at 5:30, waves crash rhythmically in the distance, and I hear the occasional hushed conversation of friends taking a walk. Otherwise, the quiet surrounds me.

My body likes Rhode Island better. I’ve been thinking a lot about solitude, being an introvert, and how I feel physically different when I am living an authentic life, one that “feels” right to me. This article caught my attention, and I get it. There is privilege to this life I have. Yet, to me it’s more than that. Noise hurts-physically hurts me. I feel actual pain when I am surrounded by a group of people all talking excitedly at the same time. And heaven forbid people start arguing. My heart races, and I look for the nearest room to hide in.

I have learned that my need for quiet, for time and space alone, isn’t just personality type– it’s truly biology.

One of the main differences between introverted and extroverted brains is how they respond to the neurotransmitter dopamine. This is the endogenous (originating from within the body) chemical that gives us pleasure and motivates us to seek rewards. Extroverts have more dopamine receptors and are thus more likely to seek dopamine-releasing stimuli…..Introverts have fewer dopamine receptors than extroverts and are more sensitive to the negative effects of exciting situations.


These days, I am learning to accept the differences in people AND recognize the privilege I have in finding ways to live fully into who I am. My volunteer work is almost always behind the scenes. My social life revolves around family and relationships with people who value meaningful conversations. And come September, I’ll be refreshed and ready to handle the city’s noise.

Your tendency to be inward-directed or outward-directed is huge; it governs every part of the way you live and work and love.

Susan Cain

Pushing My Body

getting ready….
water ski “fail”

One of my favorite activities growing up in Rhode Island was water skiing. I’d wake up early and head to the pond to catch the smooth water.

The other night my cousin (8 years younger than I) asked if anyone wanted to go skiing. I had a moment of craziness, and thought, “why not?” It had been 6 years since I’d skied, but how hard could it be, I thought. Like riding a bike :)

After agreeing, there was no turning back. His son, my son, and my grandson were in the boat, and I jumped in the pond. Just getting the skies on in the water is an ordeal (they keep sliding up and under you…it takes some effort to get them up in the “ready” position.)

Finally, I yelled “hit it!” I barely got my butt out of the water when I felt the handle pull out of my hands. As I hit the water, I felt a pain in the back of my head, and in short order, I felt nauseous. Nevertheless, I was in, and I attempted once more. No way. This old body just wasn’t going to make it. I’ve spent two days with a headache and sore muscles. It could have been worse.

I really don’t know what I was thinking. I haven’t been exercising as much as I should. And I’m not 17 anymore! Getting old, making the transition to old age, means giving up certain things. I have been spending much time this summer thinking about how I want to live out the end of my life. It may be 25 years or perhaps less. But I’m not kidding myself now– it will be different.

Even so, I can take care of myself so I stay healthy and active. I’ll watch my grandchildren learn to swim and ski on this same pond. And I’ll love every minute of having generations come back to Carters’ Landing, the place my grandparents built for all of us.

I can’t imagine anything more joyful.