Sure, my brain is damaged and there’s plenty of life moments that I experience differently than most. But there’s also plenty of stuff that I and other TBI survivors don’t have a monopoly on. Hence, the Mundane Brain.
I smoke. I’ve gotten down to 2-3 packs per week, but anyone remotely connected to the heath care industry will tell you that smoking at all is too much.
And I eat too much crap. I eat pretty well 65-70% of the time, but then I have a weakness for junk food. Of all kinds. Oke Doke cheese popcorn (of course with melted butter and sea salt I add to it because it’s just not quite harsh enough on my digestive system right out of the bag. Tate’s Bake Shop chocolate chip cookies (but their gluten free!) in the middle of the night. Rice Krispy Treats (I’m a sucker for the chewy and usually don’t make it home from the grocery store without having at least one.)
Then there’s blogging. Now, blogging itself is great. It keeps my writing skills sharp and my mind engaged in self-awareness. But dammit if as soon as I publish a post in the moment and I’m not checking the WordPress app at least 10-15 times throughout the day to see how many hits I get (“Yay! 60 people give a rat’s ass about what I have to say!” “Oh whoa is me! Only 10 people clicked on my post today. Booo! Was it the title of the post? Should I buy more advertising on Facebook? Do I blog about myself too much? Not enough? Oh the humanity.”)
Attachment. To security and assurance of habit inherent in smoking. The reliability that I will enjoy the cookies or the popcorn or the Krispies yet will feel just a tad like roadkill if I eat enough of it. The tiny shot of dopamine to my brain with each additional click on this blog.
Attachment. And the worst thing about is, many, many times, I’m not even smoking or eating junk food because I really want it. I’m smoking or eating junk food because that’s what I do. Specific times of day mean I do certain things. After dinner, I eat popcorn with butter because after dinner, I eat popcorn with butter. I light up a smoke as I’m leaving the parking lot at work at the end of the day because I light up a smoke as I’m leaving the parking lot at work at the end of the day.
Do I have to do those things? Of course not. But my brain has been strengthening the neuron connections to spark those habits for years. In the case of smoking, a couple decades. And though I don’t get any real, sensory satisfaction out of eating the crap or smoking the butt, my brain is at ease because its neuropathways have been reinforced. Time and time and time and time and time again.
The Buddha said that people endure dukkha because of attachment. Dukkha, in this context refers to my attachment to habit. My attachment to the safety and security of the knowledge that I’m somehow reinforcing the identity of the man who smokes too much (remember any smoking is to much) and eats too much crap.
This also tapes into my problem with abstinence. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in the tribe of people who have no problem with being proactive (Running, core exercises, lifting weights, eating the right foods) but I suck at abstinence (Staying the hell away from smoking at all, not tearing open the bag of Oke Doke cheese popcorn and eating half of it in one sitting.)
Attachment. But to who? To what? The Buddha taught the concept of No-Self. What I think he meant by that is you and I and everyone else in this world changes, profoundly and mundanely, moment to moment, hour to hour, year to year. Nobody is the exact same person they were a moment ago. A moment ago I was “Andy with a twinge of pain in my calf from running too much yesterday.” In this moment? The pain is gone. So Andy-a-moment-ago has vanished. All that’s left is Andy-with-no-pain-in-his-calf.
And guess what. That Andy-with-a-pain-in-his-calf has also now vanished because now, I am Andy-whose-neck-itches-oh-and-suddenly-really-has-to-pee.
Impermanence is the fleeting nature of reality. No Self is the fleeting nature of the thing we call “I”.
Did you catch that.
“He” just left.
It’s only “Me” now.
Except “He” just left too.