I have a brain that works sideways. I call it lateral thinking. I don’t know if that’s an actual term, or something I just made up, but if you picture someone casting a broad net from a small boat at sea, as opposed to angling with a single line, that’s me. This is very handy when it comes to writing, because I can gather quite a lot of ideas and images in that net, and hold them simultaneously while I see how one connects to the other. People say I have a gift for metaphor. My sideways brain is why. It’s easy to see how one thing is like another when you have them all spread before you. To employ another metaphor, my mind goes wide.
Getting it to go long is a problem.
I’m getting so much better, as I grow up and finally know myself, at playing to my strengths and managing my deficits. But I still really struggle with time management. I don’t perceive time with any degree of accuracy. I’m not sure I understand time. It’s a mysterious, elastic element to me. Quicksilver on my palm.
If you have a sideways brain, you already know how this issue manifests in day-to-day living. If you don’t, sideways people drive you crazy. There’s the clock, there’s the date, what’s the problem?
I have made huge strides in using a calendar (my iphone is my prosthetic left brain), but tasks or events that have multiple steps really give me trouble. For example, one of the kids is scheduled to go on a scout camp-out on Saturday morning. That I have this in my calendar, and a text reminder programmed is major progress. But there are things that need to happen besides remembering to drop him off at the appointed place at the appointed hour. Like washing clothes, sewing badges, and finding his boots. And these things have to fit in with other things. Like a book signing on Saturday afternoon and dinner guests Saturday night. With things that need to happen in order to happen. Like promoting the book-signing, picking out something to wear, cleaning house, planning a menu, shopping for food and wine.
If you are a linear thinker, if you are the angler casting your line from the shore, this is all self-evident. Maybe you intuit it instantly, in the way I flash on the image of mercury in my hand when I think of time.
If you have a sideways brain, it is exhausting and laborious, and you want to cry with shame when your child comes and gently reminds you that shopping for camp-out food needs to happen between now and Saturday, with all the sweetness and tact of a wonderful secretary, because they know you don’t know. And that it might not happen if they leave it to your sideways brain. If they rely on you alone.
If you have sideways brain, shame is your oldest companion.
There are medications one can take. Because different is pathology in our culture. People die from different every day. The medications helped in lots of ways. I haven’t ruled them out for myself in the future, and I wouldn’t rule them out for anyone else. Yes, there were side effects, but none so deadly as shame.
But I missed my sideways brain.