Hollow Brain

(google image)

I get a hollow brain sensation

when I’m overwhelmed

Like my brain is porous

and anything can fly in or out

It’s an unsettling feeling, to be sure

Feeling unmoored


Unidentified Bright Objects


(photo – dizziness-and-balance.com)

UBOs or unidentified bright objects
the neurologist said
It’s a joke
bright spots on the MRI
very common
he said

After waiting three weeks
for the results
I had time to contemplate
what it might be
trying hard not to over-think or over-google

Changes in the brain’s white matter can be indicators of small vessel ischemia or MS
or early onset Alzheimer’s.

I had three weeks to contemplate
what my life might be with a brain “condition.”
Would I be able to keep writing?
Would I end up in a wheelchair?
Would I be able to travel?

Before the dizziness and migraines began,
I had dreams of being unable to walk,
Leaden legs
stuck in quicksand
dangerous people chasing me
I couldn’t get away

I know a lot of it has to do with my mother,
who has Alzheimer’s, and is wheelchair-bound
for going on 5 years
Would that be my fate?
Would I end up in a nursing home like her?

I never wanted to be like her
but I felt I was getting closer to
being just that

We could babble to each other
stare straight ahead
like in Being There,
think Trump is funny
and not a threat

I don’t want to be a burden to my husband
he knows I don’t want to live like that

Unidentified bright objects

Not a brain disease
probably nothing
the doctor says
but he sent me for a blood test
to rule things out–
Lyme disease, auto-immune disease,
heart condition

Unidentified bright objects

I guess I have
a second chance

The Tender Trap

Get this song out of my head! Try as I might, it won’t let me be.

You see a pair of laughing eyes,
and suddenly you’re sighing sighs.
You’re thinkin’ nothing’s wrong
You string along
Boy, then snap
Those eyes, those sighs,
They’re part of the tender trap.

I watched part of The Tender Trap starring Debbie Reynolds and Frank Sinatra on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) on Sunday. A romantic comedy/musical from 1955, not earth-shattering, no profound message. Now I can’t get the theme song out of my head.

Neurologist and author Dr. Oliver Sacks would refer to this phenomenon as a “brainworm” or “earworm” (I prefer the former).

Here’s what Dr. Sacks has to say on these “worms”:

Earworms, or brainworms, may start as very meaningful, but they become mechanically repetitive. One is then seeing helpless loop activity in the brain, which resembles seizure activity.

Advertisers are wicked specialists in the production or earworms. So much music is designed to be manipulative—film scores, advertisements, theme songs. I think it’s a perverse use of music. 

Composer Jimmy Van Heusen and lyricist Sammy Cahn, you have a lot to answer for here. Your cute little ditty is driving me nuts! Well, they’re both deceased, so I can’t exactly call them to task on this.

Have any of you been plagued by brainworms? If so, which songs or jingles have wriggled their way into your gray matter?

Look to the Rainbow


photo by Angela Marie Henriette

On St. Patrick’s Day, Lorin and I watched Finian’s Rainbow on the Turner Classic Movie station (TCM). Although it was rather dated and at times, flat-out bizarre, the spirit and the songs, as well as the wonderful pairing of Fred Astaire and Petula Clark as father and daughter from Ireland, kept us engrossed. I woke up this morning with the song “Look to the Rainbow” in my head, and it won’t let go.

That’s what neurologist and author Dr. Oliver Sacks would refer to as a “brainworm,” a bit of music that gets stuck in your head and repeats itself over and over again. I was saddened to hear that Dr. Sacks, a personal hero of mine, was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year.

I started reading Dr. Sacks’ books after my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2010, including Musicophilia and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. You might know him from the film Awakenings (also one of his books) starring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro; Robin Williams plays the Dr. Sacks character. I feel I have gotten to know the man through his books and his tremendous work with countless patients afflicted with various types of neurological disorders. He has devoted his life to research and the service of others. A life well-lived.

Dr. Sacks is one of the living reminders that we must continue to look to the rainbows in our lives, wherever they may appear, whether expected or unexpected, planned or un-. This is a reminder to myself and my friends and loved ones. Times are tough, but we are tougher.

Now for Fred and Petula: