Monday, December 3, 2012


Derek and I have been discussing brains lately.

<Insert requisite zombie joke here.>

It usually starts with me describing to him something going on in my brain, and ends with a blank, bewildered, or pitying look on his face.  Then he says something like, "Your brain must be a dark/scary/confusing place."

At my behest, he has also tried to explain what his mental space looks like.

Picture a showroom for the Container Store or one of those home organization places.  That is what I envision Derek's mind looking like.

It is clean.  It is uncluttered.  It is straightforward, and most things are black and white.  Decisions are made quickly and precisely, there are vast memory storages (past the age of eight, that is), and a very concise and accurate way of accessing that memory.  Thanks to a moral compass that points true north, what is Right is easily identifiable and done whenever possible.  Multi-tasking comes easily.  Perfection is the goal.

Now picture the opposite.  That is my brain.

Well, that's not quite true.  There is an organizational system in place, of sorts.  It's not complete mayhem in there.

Actually, my computer desktop is a pretty accurate microcosm of my mind:

(Click to embiggen.)

Behold:  Virtual sticky notes.  I love those things.  Obviously.  Let's see here...  we've got some book titles that are on my to-read list.  Some things I need to do.  The word hegemony.  Just because I like it.  Temple Grandin is a movie title I recently read a recommendation for that I am very intrigued by.  The citrus zester is on my birthday wish list (which is just a few days away- be prepared for a superfun birthday post about cancer!).

And just think:  I deleted at least a dozen sticky notes before I took this screen shot.

While my desktop with its glorious sticky notes does kind of remind me of my mental state, it's not entirely accurate.  I think mostly in words- as in, written words that I can see printed across my mind's eye.  I'm not sure if it's because I read so much or if that's what caused my love of reading to begin with.  Also, all those notes might lead you to think I'm good at multi-tasking.  I'm not.  Me multi-tasking is dangerous.  Literally.  It's also not that bright in there.  My thoughts tend to be kind of dark.  I have to make a conscious effort to focus on happier, more positive things.

I've always kind of assumed everyone thinks more like I do.  I think Derek knows that most people don't have a mind like his, but he also doesn't believe most people's brains are just like mine.

At first I thought this meant everyone else's were somewhere in between, but further speculation leads me to think that each person's mind is so individual that it's close to impossible to put it on some sort of spectrum (although my psych degree has taught me that people are bound and determined to try).  The mind is also very difficult to describe, as I've discovered in writing this post.

I hate to ask a question as an ending to this post, because for some reason, that seems to actually deter people from commenting, but I must:  What's your brain like?  More like Derek's, or mine, or completely and totally different?

UPDATE:  Wow.  You guys have left some awesome responses, and I'm proud to know some really fascinating brains.  I've had so much fun reading about them!


  1. I think Rob's brain looks more like yours --lots and lots of overlapping lists of things he needs to get done. This frequently leads to paralysis. And lots of procrastination. But I love him anyway :-)

    My brain is fairly organized. I can keep multiple lists in my head (drives Rob nuts that I don't have to write them down to remember them) and I'm a great multi-tasker. Okay, so sometimes a wine glass bites the dust, but still.

    However, since having a child, my brain has become a bit overloaded. I find that having to remember all the kid things makes it really difficult for me to remember the me things. Since I have to keep the kid alive, the kid things have priority over the me things. This means I make it out the door on school mornings with everything Emma needs, but usually without something I need.

    It's been 12 years now, and this is still happening. In fact, as Emma has gotten older, the number of kid things that need remembering have multiplied. I used to think that keeping track of things like the diaper bag and loveys was complex, but it turns out all the school stuff is much more demanding :-)

    1. Paralysis? Check. Procrastination? Check. The need to write EVERYTHING down? Double-check. I hate to tell you this, but I think you basically married me in male form.

      And with the kids? Oh my word. I say good for you for getting everything Emma needs, especially because it's completely true: The older they get, the more stuff they're required to have with them, complete, etc, every freaking day for school.

  2. My brain seems to be full of useless arcane trivia, like how to spell words, my dead grandmother's phone number, and names of actors whom I have never seen in a movie. But I don't feel organized. I have pretty much the same experience as Cassi Renee describes, post-children. I have to tell myself over and over, on any particular day, who I am picking up, when, and where I am taking him/her. My desk is an utter mess (in my defense this is partly because I am now doing my aunt's finances - this makes for TOO MANY PAPERS). Yet I am super at organizing spreadsheets chock full of data, which I think is the only reason I still have my job.

    My husband is a neuroscientist by training, so he has actually studied the brain a bit. His own personal brain is quite organized and he is very efficient at getting things done. He is terrible at spelling, but I think efficiency is much more important than spelling in today's world.

    It sounds to me like you and your husband balance each other out.

    1. I've often thought that my ability to spell may be taking up valuable storage space. Sure, it's great not to need spell check, but I'd really like to be able to remember something- anything- without writing it down. Then again, I'm pretty attached to properly-spelled words.

      And "My husband the neuroscientist has actually studied the brain a bit," (I'm paraphrasing here) sounds like an understatement akin to "Derek is a bit of Vikings fan." I do wish I were more efficient.

      Finally, yes. We have excellent balance. He makes sure stuff gets done, I remind him that there are shades of gray out there. Not that he believes me.

    2. Well, but my husband mostly studies the brains of aged rats, not human brains.

    3. I can think of a few people where there isn't much difference.

  3. Well, saying as we're related, I'm going to say my brain is somewhat like yours. I think Clinton would agree saying as he can say one thing and the next minute, I will be googling the most RANDOM question.

    Case in point, we were in the car he was talking about poetry in music

    Which made my brain start thinking about William Shakespeare and whether or not he had children. So I binged it and of course Clinton saw it and said, "Where did you pull that from?!"

    I think your brain and Clintons brain sound awfully alike. Mine is just a wee bit more crazier.

    1. Shakespeare had kids... right? Now I'm doubting myself. Are you really going to leave me hanging?

      And yes, I realize I could look this up myself, but it's the principle! I'm not sure exactly what principle this would be, but there's one here somewhere, I just know it.

  4. I'm now further convinced that her mind is a dark and scary place

    "My thoughts tend to be kind of dark. I have to make a conscious effort to focus on happier, more positive things."

    From the horse's mouth.

    1. Okay, but I think a lot of people are the same way. At least I'm making an effort, right?


  5. I looked down at my cell phone, and there are several small sticky notes on it. (Real sticky notes, not digital ones) I could probably pull a dozen sticky notes from my computer bag. I like being able to list the info on one note, then toss it when I am done.

    And, I am a list maker. Not sure what my brain looks like. I think it's busy and colorful, but lots of words also. I HAVE to read something everyday, or my day is not complete.

    I multitask every day. I do better if things are color coded. Guess it helps me visually sort things.

    1. I would agree that your brain probably is busy and colorful; your personality definitely manifests those traits.

      Color coding. Interesting.

  6. 1) I like reading your blog because you are the only person I "know" (does reading one another's blogs count as knowing one another?) who says things like "at my behest".

    2) Ooooh, cool sticky notes. I use *real* sticky notes everywhere--on my desk, in books, on my refrigerator, on my car steering wheel, even around the edge of my computer. I need to learn to use virtual sticky notes.

    3) You haven't read The Outsiders? It's such a great book! I had a blast reading it with my teens last year. I also enjoyed her book That Was Then, This is Now which is the book I credit with my complete lack of temptation to ever even try drugs. Not that I probably would have been tempted anyway, but that spider scene clinched the deal. shudder

    And this, my friend, is an small example of how my brain works. It goes off in multiple directions and I vainly attempt to organize my thoughts by numbering them in a list.

    My husband has a frustratingly simple brain as well. I picture it like a bunch of filing cabinets around a solitary table. Only one thought is allowed out of the cabinets at a time. I also think there are holes in the bottom of some of the drawers because once he files some things away, they are never to be accessed again. This is especially frustrating when it's something like me telling him his mother wants us to come over next Saturday and then when he talks to her on the phone, he has no recollection and tells her so which leads her to think I didn't tell him. Grrrr

    I don't think my brain is a dark and scary place, however. I still think your brain sounds like you've read too much Stephen King. :)

    1. 1) We totally know each other.

      2) I've been meaning to read The Outsiders for a loooong time, and it was only until my husband said something like, "Wait, you haven't read that book? You mean I've read a book that you haven't?" then rubbed my face in it a bit that I decided it was time to put it on the never-ending To Read list.

      3) I love the analogy you use for your husband's brain. Unfortunately, my mind is as leaky as a sieve; I'm always the one forgetting things and often has no memory of a recent conversation. I believe Derek shares your pain.

      4) I, too, love lists.

  7. brain is like a huge garbage can full of uselessness (yes, my brain says it's a word)and then overflowing with some important stuff, which I actually write down on lots of pieces of paper (usually the same things on mulitiple pages in various locations)so I don't forget them and it's always just rambling on and on never resting just like this sentence and occassionally (lots of occassions) it causes me to blurt out my information sometimes useless sometimes important usually having nothing to do with anything at the moment which causes my husbands black and white brain to go absolutely crazy cuz he never knows where the things going to go next....and neither do I...but it's a fun ride! Fun thing to think about! Thanks!

  8. one look at your computer desktop literally made me feel a little claustrophobic (read - paralyzed with fear and seeking open spaces)

    i love how God has designed your mind.

    I love that God did not do that to me!

    1. That's an excellent point- not on how God has designed my mind, but rather the infinite ways in which God has designed each person's mind.

      Sometimes I wish God had made my brain more like Derek's. Then I realize that two brains like that in the same marriage could be a terrible, terrible thing.


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