Preface: I swear to you, dear readers who may or may not know me personally: I am an intelligent, sentient being. I am capable of reasoning, of multitasking, of implementing creative solutions to difficult problems. I strive to learn something new every day, I read constantly, and I am educated. It’s important that you keep this all in mind while you read the following, because there are days when I astound even myself.
Background: My senior year of high school, during a group project in my AP U.S. Government class, Mr. Bunck delegated Kelley M. and I to design a functioning government for Iraq (post 9/11, pre unjustified U.S. invasion). We studied the history, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic structure, and current events of the country. We learned all about the gut-level divisions between the Sunnis and the Shias.
We applied our considerable combined brain-power… and then we sat and stared at each other, open-mouthed, while we realized that we had absolutely no clue. It was an unsolvable problem. As previously mentioned, I’m a pretty smart cookie, and so is Kelley M. This was the first time in my academic career, and possibly my life, where I was completely stumped. The feeling of powerlessness was overwhelming, and I have never forgotten that moment. We simply could not solve that problem. Fourteen years later, it’s clear that we weren’t the only ones.
A Tragic Play, in Two Pathetic Acts:
8 a.m. in my apartment: The dog asks to be fed. (The nerve!) This is nothing new– he likes to eat twice a day, at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. sharp, please and thank you. We have our routine. He gets two scoops, twice a day, and he waits until I tell him “okay” before digging in. This isn’t a new routine; he’s five, and he’s been eating habitually since day one. But today, when he asks to be fed, I am stymied. He has just presented me with a problem that I can not solve.
Intermission: I swear, I’m not exaggerating. There’s this little-known phenomenon that goes along with depression and anxiety where your brain simply lays off all non-essential employees. “Sorry, lads. There’s just not enough happening here to justify all your salaries. We’re going to have to cut back.”
My brain has recently gone through its fourth or fifth round of cuts (the guy in charge of keeping track is long gone), so I am basically, at this point, down to a skeleton staff. All of my remaining brainsters (that’s brain + teamsters; apparently the guy in charge of bad puns snuck through) are working hard to keep me breathing and standing upright, so this morning, when my dog stood beside his bowl and turned those enormous brown eyes on me, I felt terrible, because I didn’t know what to do. The dog was hungry, and I had no idea how to solve this problem. It was Iraq all over again.
To fully comprehend the gravity of the situation, please note the following:
- The 40 lb. bag of dog food in my pantry is still 3/4 full.
- The scoop is not lost. Neither is the dish. Nor did the pantry door handle fall off. The food is there and easily accessible.
- My dog has not suffered a recent illness or accident that would leave me questioning his nutritional needs.
- I did not recently switch time zones.
- I did not recently lose my fine motor skills. All of the body parts required to dish out the food remain intact.
- My dog did not recently change his eating habits.
- I did not recently rearrange the furniture or relocate his bowl.
None of these was the issue. I simply couldn’t wrap my head around so many steps:
- Walk to bowl.
- Lift up bowl.
- Carry bowl to pantry.
- Load bowl with two scoops of food and allergy pills.
- Deposit bowl back on top of doggie station.
- Tell the dog it’s okay to eat.
- Wipe the dog’s mouth when he finishes to avoid coating the kitchen in slobber.
Act Two: It is all just too much. I literally have to talk myself through the process, like I used to do as a toddler learning to dress myself. “First, I’ll walk to the kitchen, then I’ll pick up the bowl…”
Five eternal minutes later, it is finished. The dog will live to eat another day, and I feel like I’ve just accomplished a task of overwhelming difficulty and skill. I sink gratefully into my favorite chair, emptied of any superfluous thought or ambition. I have just successfully fed my dog. Mission accomplished.
In all seriousness, it may be time to rehire some of my brainsters. I am trying so hard not to let depression win. I know it lies. I know all the evils of which it is capable. This may, however, be the first time it has attacked so boldly on my home turf that it has actually murdered brain cells. Before I’m left with a permanent hole in my intellect, I’m going to have to figure out a way to restructure. Will somebody please call Kelley M.?