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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Put Yourself on Auto Pilot/I Will Tell Them I Remember You

Thursday today, time to put the weekend social calendar together so I don't have another weekend like last where I sat for hours playing Scrabble on my phone or mindlessly surfed on the Internet, looking at someone's Facebook page way too often to check for updates. By Sunday mid-day, I snapped myself out of it for the most part, deciding I didn't want to be that person. I put my phone and IPad in a distant room, close enough to hear a phone ringing, but nothing else. Sometimes we're our own worst enemies, getting in weird destructive, non-productive, non-happy loops. And when we're "looping" we know it's not right but we can't seem to escape the centrifugal force. These days I'm finding it helpful to role play with myself and to visualize ahead of time what my response will be when faced with choice. If you had glimpsed me in my car last Friday as I drove to Schaller's you would have seen a lady with lips moving, talking to herself.  "Hi, Sarah, Martini with Ketel One? (they still haven't caught on that it's been many months since I ordered one of those.). "No thanks, Patty/JoAnne, tonight I'm going to have a diet coke, a grilled chicken sandwich, hold the french fries and a house salad with dressing on the side." There was something about actually audibly voicing those words ahead of time that made my response automatic when the time came. It's like I was on auto pilot - I didn't have to wrestle with the decision, it had already been made. And it wasn't enough just to think it, I find you have to actually practice saying the words. Try it and see if it works for you.

Last night Shay and I went to the piano bar at Maggiano's in the city (Clark and Grand). We snagged a couple of seats at the piano bar where Bob Salone holds sway on Wednesdays and Fridays. He's a very good performer and accompanist and there is a regular cadre of singers who stop in and sing a tune or two. Good for me that I sang very well after the whole jazz fiasco on Monday. Sang What a Day This Has Been (rare for me to sing a happy, upbeat song!), Walk on By (that one kicks me in my gut and when I sang it I pictured him sitting with a Jameson's listening to me with that loving, concerned look on his face), and finally I Remember You which is such a wistful song. "I remember you, you're the one who made my dreams come true, a few kisses ago. I remember you, you're the one who said, 'I love you too. Didn't you know?'  I remember too, a distant bell and stars that fell like rain out of the blue. When my life is through and the angels ask me to recall the thrill of them all, I will tell them I remember you." One good thing that happened during the last year - I became a much more credible singer. Can't sing the blues if you haven't lived the blues!

So funny to be with Shay. The Maggiano's piano bar is usually populated by an older crowd, well represented by older, single, desperate women with too much make-up on and older guys who are trying to keep their swag but they're just trying too hard and drinking too much. It's kind of pathetic in an endearing way. There were a lot of curious questions about Shay and yes, I could have put their curiosity to rest by telling the truth, which is that he is my daughter's ex-boyfriend who lives with and works for me and who enjoys a good meal so he tagged along. But that wouldn't have been fun, right? So, when people asked me if he was a relative, I simply said, "No, he is a friend." And when Bob Salone asked his status, "I jokingly said, "He is my date." Bob responded, "So you are a cougar!" I looked at him straight-faced and said, "Are you implying I look older than him?" He was tongue-tied (didn't know I was kidding). Anyway the evening went on that way with one person after the other wondering and Shay and I just having fun with it. We'll keep them guessing if we go back again. And we DID have fun. He's actually developing an appreciation for the old standards which is amazing for a Marilyn Manson kind of guy. He has favorites he asks me to sing - usually anything Burt Bacharach.

Back to Incognito.  In keeping with my early thoughts about how to prep yourself for future conflict, a chapter entitled, The Brain is a Team of Rivals, discusses things like Christmas Clubs and Ulysses who had his sailors lash him to the mast of the ship so that, when they passed the island where the beautiful Sirens sang "melodies so alluring they beggared the human mind" and who lured sailors to their deaths, they could passage safely. David Eagleman writes:
This myth highlights the way in which minds can develop a meta-knowledge about how the short and long term parties interact. The amazing consequence is that minds can negotiate with different time points of themselves.
He goes on to cite further examples: websites that help you lose weight where you deposit funds and only get them back if you fulfill the contract, Do Not Resusitate contracts which are an example of decisions made during less emotional times, a decision made by a recovering alcoholic to remove all alcohol from the house to prevent relapse at a future stressful time. The Team of Rivals concept talks to the fact that we are of many minds and there is always high level negotiation going on in our brains. In simplistic terms it comes down to the two hemispheres of our brains which in many ways are mirror images of each other, connected by fibers called the corpus callosum - they each form two halves of a team of rivals. For a long time, it was thought that, when the corpus callosum was cut, nothing much happened. It's since been discovered there are medical uses to cutting that connection - chronic epilepsy is an example where severing the connection eliminates or reduces seizures.
It's now recognized that the two halves of our brain have different personalities and skills. Roger Sperry, one of the neurobiologists who pioneered the split-brain studies (and garnered a Nobel Prize for it), came to understand the brain as "two separate realms of conscious awareness; two sensing , perceiving, thinking and remembering systems." The two halves constitute a team of rivals: agents with the same goals but slightly different ways of going about it.
In the '70's a psyschologist named Julian James postulated that early man's minds were divided into two - with the left hemisphere taking direct orders from the right hemisphere. The commands actually sounded like auditory hallucinations and were interpreted as communication from God. As the brain evolved there were more interactions between the two hemispheres and cognitive processes such as introspection developed. When that happened, conflicting agendas had to be worked out - the brain with its different goals had to come to the "table" and work things out.

Challenge for today could be incorporating The Sarah Method for prepping yourself for an event you know is coming down the pike where you may be fraught with indecision and potentially make a bad decision you will regret later. It could be an upcoming performance review with your boss, or making a decision ahead of time that, when you're out on Saturday, you'll switch to Perrier after two drinks. It could be a pep talk you give yourself when you've completed ten reps in the gym and want to take it to fifteen, or how you will talk yourself out of purchasing anything that is not on your list when you go to Costco. Consider being that crazy person who talks to himself. Practice the words ahead of time. You're in Whole Foods. "Would you like to try a sample of our newey gooey sausage deep dish pizza?"  If, ahead of time, you decided grocery food samples are off limits and you actually voiced the words, "Thank you for offering, but I don't eat samples," or something that, magically, voila, those very same words will pop out of your mouth when you need to summon them!


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