What’s on Your Mind?

(c) Joseph Saling 2020

I said I was coming back, and here I am. Thanks to all of you who’ve been patient enough to look in from time to time and not give up. Thanks also to those who have prodded me. And, yes, I did need it. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say. It’s rather that I couldn’t say it. My mind just keeps getting in my way.

I was talking to Sandy about what smart TVs do for us in terms of what we watch and how we watch it. What I didn’t know was that my mind was going to shut me down. Big Little Lies starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, and loads of other actors with names we’d recognize in instant, was the example I wanted to use. And in particular, I wanted to talk about Nicole Kidman’s performance. And BINGO. Her name wasn’t there.

And it wasn’t just her name. I was going to use the name of her husband and costar in Eyes Wide Shut — Tom Cruise, of course — to help me get her name back. But guess what, his name was gone too. I could name multiple movies we’d seen him in. I could talk about the focus on Scientology. But it was no use because both names were gone, and with them was the point I was going to make about watching smart TV.

The bottom line was I’m getting older and it’s doing bad things to my mind. I told my therapist about the incident and about how often it happens over and over. I know who these people are, but I’ve got no way to talk about them because my memory won’t give me a chance.

My therapist (whom I trust immensely) said I could see a neurologist, but odds were I’d ace all the tests. I talked to my regular doctor who echoed my therapist and told me I’d have no problem acing the tests. But she said it wouldn’t hurt to see the neurologist and that she’d refer me.

I saw him. He was young, but knowledgeable and charismatic. He told me I was not losing my mental capacity. It was just that as we get older, our mind starts to store and access memories in different ways, and there were things I could do to offset the changes. So I’m trying.

But forgetting things (including “what did I want that just made walk into the kitchen”) is not the only problem. We work out things we want to say in our mind before we actually reach for words. At least, it seems that way. But when things we ponder don’t yield themselves to words that convey what we are feeling, it becomes extremely difficult to talk about them. So here I am.

The poem below — “A Matter of Mind” — is the title poem of my book published in 2004. It can explain at least how it feels not to be able to express what you may desperately want to say.

A Matter of Mind

I had no way to tell you because words
made it a matter of mind. But that morning
two hawks in circle dance cried above me
as I longed for their wings, wished to grow wings.

Pictures, perhaps, but I was no painter
who could catch the crow flapping above mowed fields.
Nor was I a musician to make music
like the music of gulls rocked by the wind.

The mind would not do.  That night I heard owls
& felt bones of mice under foot while I let
my cigarette burn itself out, wishing
only to extinguish the mind that raced
through thought after thought like a mockingbird
caught in a web of meaningless melody.
 (c) copyright 2004 and 2020 by Joseph Saling