To think about

To think about

The name of the blog

"It was never just an affair" needs to be in quotations, because it was something my ex-husband said to me early on in the break-up. I guess he thought it might make me feel better to know it wasn't just a fling per say, it was real love? It didn't make me feel better. Him ending the affair and being willing to work on the marriage would have made me feel better.

Friday, 11 April 2014

My working memory might be hampering my personal growth

If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.

I am having an ongoing conversation via email, and now, text, with a man who is so different from anyone I have ever experienced, I am awake at an ungodly hour that I consider to be the middle of the night because I feel like I have awoken from a coma, unable to make sense of my environment. I am struggling greatly with the uncomfortableness of our exchange. My mind is making up stories about why this situation is wrong, and what I think now, with not enough rest for my brain, is that there is nothing actually wrong with him or his approach. What I think is happening with my brain is that it has no life experience to draw on when I ponder the situation, so it is reaching into other people’s stories and experiences to fill in the gaps and make a logical linear story. Is this approach sound? 

I think back to a TED talk I listened to many months ago, which I have now watched again, by Peter Doolittle, an educational psychologist, about how your working memory makes sense of your experiences in the world. Working memory is a part of the brain you cannot turn off, has four basic components, and has some limitations in terms of capacity, duration and focus. Working memory lends to communication, narrative building, critical thinking, problem-solving and reasoning processes.  If we process, apply, or talk to someone about new information, this area of the brain helps us make sense of the world around us. We process what’s going on in our lives as it happens, looking for meaning, so that we can use that information later. That is accomplished by our brain reaching back into our long-term memory, pulling in bits of stored information, and applying that information against what we are experiencing, in order to process “our current goal”. Working memory capacity is the ability to leverage what you already know to help you satisfy your current goal. (

Then I watched a short animated TED lesson on how your brain makes that critical first judgement of a person based on their behaviours. The negativity bias is strongly at play when forming a first impression. (

My poor brain simply cannot wrap itself around behaviours I have never seen before. I have no working memory capacity for my current goal and/or problem, so I am falling back on suspicion, mistrust, and self-protection because that, I know. I am, essentially, taking gaps in his story that I cannot understand, and my brain is turning those into warning signs. I am stressed, having a difficult time sleeping, and I cannot turn my brain off, all because I cannot neatly compartmentalize someone else’s behaviour. I do not have the experience to draw on to accurately judge the behaviour, so I find myself going into a protective mode. He is stretching me in a way that I have not been asked to bend before, and it makes me horribly uncomfortable, but isn’t that what change creates? Discomfort. 

I am worrying that I am being catfished, or this guy isn’t real and some Nigerian scam artist has stolen his identity and there will be a request for money coming soon. Have either of those things personally happened to me? Yes, there are memories of being used by men stored in my long term memory bank. Do I know people those scenarios have happened to? Yes. I also know the insecure and hurt part of me that still exists is afraid I am not good enough; therefore, I wonder if someone who appears to be interested in me could be faking it or planning to take advantage of me. What I need to remind myself of is my strength and intelligence. Even if a request for money comes, I trust myself enough to recognize the scam and not get sucked in. 

I feel like I am being vetted, or interviewed for a job, a role in his life. In all likelihood though, this has nothing to do with me, and is all about him. Perhaps in the past he has fallen for someone who didn’t have similar morals and values, and he doesn’t trust his emotional capabilities to meet me before asking the hard questions. Yesterdays lovely and supportive email from him not only included the details of what he has been doing to keep busy, and answering a few of my questions, it included 19 questions ranging in topic from religion, to my take on love, sex and romance, to what I thought of interracial and generational gap relationships. It was no quick or easy task answering those questions I tell you. The timing of such intimately profound questions seems so out of place to me before we have even met or talked on the phone. 

So this guy is not in a hurry to meet me; I know he is divorced so perhaps he has his own fears and insecurities about rejection. So he hasn’t rushed to ask me for my number, and when I offered mine and he returned his, it was an area code I wasn’t familiar with. I googled it; it is from Toronto, CA, which he has never clearly stated he lived in. It doesn’t mean he is a married man who is cheating. So I can’t find out anything about him on the internet other than an Australian LinkedIn account with a photo that looks like him. Well, he said he was from Australia, and I know when I search my name not that much comes up. So I struggle to understand his emails and think he writes like English is his second language; I was raised by teachers and not everyone writes the way I do. Maybe he has yet to tell me his immigration story. So he seems to have difficulty answering the questions I scatter within the emails; not everyone is a meticulous to details as I am. 

Given he is from Australia, and he writes as though English is his second language, there could well be cultural differences in courtship that my brain cannot take into account because my brain only knows what it knows. Given that I contacted him, what is the likelihood of a Nigerian type scam? What I need to do right now, other than go back to bed and sleep a bit more, is relax. Give time, time. My heart does not need to be on the line for me to proceed with the question and answer period. I am not so invested that if it is a scam in some way, my heart will be broken. What I need to do is challenge myself, over and over again if that is what it takes, to be open to a situation and approach it with the best of intentions, no expectations, and a willingness to learn.

I see those meme’s on Facebook warning me to listen to my instinct, that is my soul talking. That if your gut is telling you something is wrong, it probably is. Which is what my mother also taught me growing up; listen to your tummy. What if that is incorrect, at least in certain situations? What if, sometimes, we experience something so foreign that we simply must keep an open mind, and go forward wholeheartedly, without judgement, no matter how foolish that seems to the pragmatic? I think my exchanges with this man might be good practise for the many foreign experiences I will soon have during my month overseas. I think this man is challenging me to try something different. 

My brain is trying to reconcile information, lack of information, and bits of information, that I am uncomfortable with, and make a narrative about them. Is this serving me well though? Or will I talk myself out of something that could be fabulous, just because I don’t recognize it, or it is too untidy? Truthfully, the damage is already done to some degree. I am no longer hopeful about the possibilities of a relationship with him, and I don’t get excited when he texts me. I am just too wary. 

Last night before I went to bed, I read a status update on Facebook from author Elizabeth Gilbert that I liked so much I shared it and sent it privately to two friends that I thought needed the message. Now I reflect it was I who needed the message. Clearly my subconscious grasped the message, and played it over and over in my mind all night. Here is my hack job putting together random sentences from her status that I think I need to focus on right now: “Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the Road to transformation. … And the only way to move forward is to change. Change, to put it simply, is the suck. Nobody wants to do it — not real change, not soul change, not the painful molecular change required to truly become who you need to be. Nobody ever does real transformation for fun. Nobody ever does it on a dare. You do it only when your back is so far against the wall that you have no choice anymore…. Transformation isn't easy. It isn't pretty. (Ever watch a bird hatch? It's fucking exhausting.) You don't ascend from that lowest place of your life in a tidy straight line, moving a few inches upward every day. No, it's a messy and jerky and unpredictable trajectory. But it is a trajectory. And the general direction — from the moment of your decision forward — is always going to be UP. Up and out. You will shed whatever (and whomever) you need to shed. You will find whatever (and whomever) you need to find.”

I have an opportunity right here and now to be brave, be still in my discomfort, be patient, and most of all stop judging people and trying to put them into neat little boxes. I have an opportunity to act differently, and perhaps be rewarded for those efforts. I have an opportunity to grow. I have an opportunity to receive something new in life. I have an opportunity. 

Footnote - I am no longer talking to the above mentioned person. When I brought up my concerns, they were not addressed, nor responded to in a good way.  And when he finally did call me, there was no Australian accent and a different phone number was used. Again, when I challenged the inconsistencies, no explanation ever came. So in this case, it would seem that my tummy or gut instinct was bang on. 

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