Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Zapped Brain Cells

Brain Cells Zapped

Every time I have a hot flash ... that's when your crazy mixed up adrenals shoot an overload of adrenalin into your system ... I feel as if my brain has been zapped by something like a battery operated mosquito killer, only this zap is powered by something much more powerful than a couple of 2A batteries.

My hot flashes are nuclear powered and the number of brain cells that get zapped is in the multitudes. I can forget my own name when it happens, never mind the train of thought or even the topic under discussion.

But I could learn to live with the ones that happen during the day if I could only get a night's sleep. I am awakened every hour and sometimes awake for two or three hours when I get one of these night sweats.

I find myself dying to go to bed each evening because I am exhausted, and dying to get up for the day in the small hours of every morning because sleep is impossible.

Last night I took a herbal remedy for insomnia containing Valerian. I was wonderfully relaxed and fell asleep immediately. Of course I fall asleep immediately anyway because I am so exhausted by bedtime. But imagine my surprise when I was wide awake at 11 but peaceful so I went back to sleep. And then again at 12 and 1 and 2.

Except that at 2 I lay there thinking. I wasn't anxious, just very awake. I read for a while ... a book of short stories by Melanie Little. I had met her in a poetry course we were both taking and then again at the International Writers' Festival where she was speaking. In that occasion, Marta and I discussed her in the washroom and a voice emerged from one of the cubicles saying she was listening and she was Melanie. A few months later, Marta and I took a weekend writing course from her and we all had lunch together. Then she became the writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta and we lost even those ephemeral strands of connection. Last week I read in the Globe and Mail that Melanie has started a small publishing house in Calgary, where she is the only employee. She has limited the number of books she publishes this fall to 4. The first one, a novel by Marina Endicott called Good to a Fault has been nominated for the Giller Prize. Wow, Melanie!

In Melanie's own book I discovered a note from her, a response to some poems I had written. I couldn't even remember the poems she mentioned.

I was wide awake so I went into my den closet where I store all kinds of writing, my own and that of others. I hunted for half an hour and finally found them. I almost couldn't remember the woman who wrote them. I think the hot flashes must have zapped those cells completely.

Here is a poem by that other Oma.

It is part of a series called "Acts of Casual Brutality".

Disappearing Acts

Where do you go when you leave?

Do you disappear into a book?
your work?
a bottle?

an all consuming affair of the heart?
a vagina?

or do you drop wordlessly
into an abyss?

When women friends plummet
I worry
so I hunt for them
and try to help them out

but with you I'm not sure ...
with you I perch uneasily ...

At first
you phoned as soon as you got home,
left things here,

Then the small disappearing acts began.
Unanswered emails.
Dead phone lines.

One day you vanished completely.

Later you said it was temporary.

Where did you go?

and where are you now?

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