It’s February, and there’s lots of moaning and groaning going on about this worst winter for many (“worst” as in snow and more snow). Also with winter comes the ensuing cabin fever, and sometimes, the downright blues. And who could avoid them after a day like this past Sunday, when we woke to devastating news of the heroin overdose of acclaimed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, then suffered one of the worst football contests in Super Bowl history (Seattle Seahawks 43 over Denver Broncos 8). How to process such a shocking loss of a remarkably talented man; although, with a blowout like that, at least for once we didn’t have to witness the further proliferation of NFL concussions.
There’s also on the horizon all the griping about Valentine’s Day by those who are jaded or have otherwise not been lucky in love. Some people just hate Hallmark holidays, but this is America, damn it. Pointlessly probably, I want to say, “It’s February! The season of hearts and flowers, and (squeal) love poems.
I may want to tell you my whole life history of all the fun and romantic things I’ve done to celebrate love, which began in my childhood home as we joyously exclaimed, “Happy Valentino’s Day!” …Of all the fun things I’ve got going on now in preparation. That would be fun to write about, but in light of all we are facing, and instead of all the boycotting that might go on, I need to write about what matters more to me these days (or at least as much).
I say, why not love something we all truly should celebrate: OUR BRAINS! Yes, yes. I hereby declare February “Love Your Brain” month.
Your heart is the seat of your soul, and it is an incredible organ worthy of much attention, but your brain, your brain…I’m telling you, people, it really is all about your brain!
Your brain is the most amazing organ in your body. It literally controls the functioning of all your other organs—including the breaths you take. You would be amazed at what becomes affected when your brain stops working optimally…a whole host of matters from muscle atrophy to slurred speech to severe fatigue. And you would also be amazed at how the brain works to heal itself and all it can accomplish. Both lists are greater than you can imagine. But we can’t count on our brain’s incredible ability to rewire itself. We have to pay attention to what goes on, because even if we are never impaired, one of our loved ones certainly might be.
Your brain is also responsible for some 70,000 thoughts a day. Like most things, we don’t appreciate what we have going for us neurologically. We waste time worrying about our body size and bankbooks, when what we really should be doing is treating our brain better and celebrating the phenomenal entity that is our brain. Every action, every thought, every movement: Your brain, your brain, your glorious brain.
Case in point, addiction is a disease, and when the diseased brain takes over, people make poor choices that can cost them their lives, as is the case with so many young people and too many Hollywood movie stars. Acquired brain injury is not the same thing at all, but some of its effects are often confused by those who are uninformed or have been fortunate enough not to have experienced them. I say fortunate enough not to have experienced, because really, brain injury can occur at any moment in a multitude of situations. No one wants to suffer a brain injury; yet truly, anyone who is alive is at risk. So, as long as you are healthy, you really should try not to complain. Venting is good, so long as you keep in mind the bigger picture. What’s a little snow when it affords you the opportunity to read and think? Use your brain to stay safe, to occupy your time, and to cope with unpleasant conditions. I guarantee, if harm comes your way, it will be your brain that works hardest at getting you to survival and safety. It will also be your brain that gets you to decide to stay off the streets, or to help someone who is in distress or in need.
We have so much to learn about both the healthy and the diseased brain that we can’t afford to waste time bemoaning bad weather or an unreceived box of chocolates, or anything else we think we want but don’t have. We simply need to get busy understanding. With knowledge comes change. And oh, how we wish we could have saved so many of the precious souls we lost too soon to these conditions.
Let’s start our work now; let’s find out how we can prevent this epidemic of heroin and drug addiction from continuing. Let’s learn how we can help those who suffer physical disabilities, and those who suffer from mental illness. Our brains are at the ready. I know our hearts are in. But it takes our brains, too.
So, please, spend this February loving and learning. Study some brain science. Learn about how your brain functions and all that it accomplishes. Most of all, think happy thoughts and be grateful. You are alive, and if you are here, you are reading. I can’t think of two much greater things. Love may break your heart, but living and reading will fill it.
© Debra A. Valentino, all rights reserved.