Friday, May 8, 2015

My life as a "Hamster Brain"

Years ago I realized that I had a set of personality traits that made me who I am. They didn't necessarily make me unique from anyone else, but they made me operate under a certain set of rules and parameters that I have since both lovingly and disparagingly termed, "Hamster Brain." Within this post I will disgorge those traits and try to put them in as much of a concise description as possible to hopefully shed some insight into how my creative process works and why it makes me act like a tiny overly furry and somewhat caged mammal. And, believe me, it is both an amazing amount of fun and a crazy drive back to the cosmic pet store to turn myself in for either cash back or an even trade for an animal more suited to a life among humans. This, dear readers, is the life within the cerebral cortex of Mesocricetus auratus, the common Hamster Brain.

First of all, why did I even begin to call myself a Hamster Brain? It all goes back to college when a close friend of mine began calling me out on a series of both stunning feats of klutziness and outrageous forgetfulness of the most mundane tasks. I would become so hyperfocused on studying, writing, doing art, researching, taking photos, watching movies, that I would forget to eat, forget to sleep, and forget to pay the rent or utilities. You have seen the hamster in the cage, running wildly on the wheel for extraordinary stretches of time until finally it crawls over to the water bottle and drinks for ages, never seeming to slake the thirst? That is hamstering. It is forgetting biology and going on pure instinct. Only for me personally, my instinct is to stuff things into my brain instead of stuffing food into my cheeks. When I read a book, I read "a book," a whole book, barely putting it down for long enough to use the restroom or get a glass of water (and forget about eating an actual meal). When I edit photos, I am inside the program for hours at a time until my eyes are red and irritated and my fingers are clawed from holding the mouse and typing. And when I am working on new art projects? I dive in to research like I am hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. I don't stop until I have a full plan developed with contingencies for all steps along the way and ideas of where to procure every supply and how, precisely, the finished project should look barring design changes. It is all a stuffing-the-cheeks behavior that makes multi-tasking (though possible) improbable. And have you ever interrupted a hamster on the wheel? Well, it goes spinning out of control and lands in a fluffy and confused pile across the cage. You got it. Do Not Disturb when I am in the zone.

The very worst of it is trying to plan things that are off the beaten path, even if I desperately like them, want to try them, or need to do them (yes, overdue bills, I am giving you the stink-eye). I am a tiny mammal of habit. I don't necessarily do things in pattern, but I definitely have a territorial stomping ground, what I call the four corners of the cage. If I am not sleeping, eating, bathing and toileting, or creating the most grand of shredded structures known to hamsterkind, it has a tendency to fall of the radar. Have I planned to go see a favorite band or to a new gallery? Not on the stomping ground path. Was I supposed to call you at 3 p.m. on Tuesday? If the phone did not appear in the middle of my food dish, I probably forgot, didn't I? Am I supposed to meet you across town at that new restaurant I wanted to try as well? I am probably circling the block trying to reconfigure my path because how to actually get there is not computing and I might be freaking out a little. I say with all sincerity that I do not mean to blow off personal obligation and that my friends and family mean the absolute world to me, but that I am stuck here in this cage, doing my hamstery things as I have done every day of my life, and sometimes you need to rattle the lid, tap on the glass, or throw me a mini carrot to get my attention. I mean well, but Hamster Brain is an entropic zen state of mind. The more I concentrate, the less the out-of-the-ordinary gets in and sticks to my schedule.

As an adult, I have developed a web of coping mechanisms to deal with being Hamster Brained. If I can pay a bill automatically, I do. I send myself a multitude of reminders, alarms, alerts, e-mails, and inventively placed notes that will jar my memory on important dates and appointments. And, dear friends, I blurt. Heavens help me and may all friends past, present, and future forgive me, I blurt in every single way possible in almost every situation there is. Did I think about something I needed to say to you during a conversation? That thing is going to spring out like a crazed salmon swimming upstream for the last time in the middle of the point you are making because if I don't say it, it is gone forever and a day. Hopefully I have something handy to write it down on so I don't interrupt you, but more than likely I have, I am, or I will interrupt you at some point in our history. Please try to understand that it is not with malice that I blurt, but that that tiny blue butterfly of inspiration or reminder is flying away before I even open my mouth or stick a finger into the air to make an open-parenthesis in your part of the conversation. And besides blurting, I hoard communication. If we have talked about something and I really wanted you to know more (or you have asked for more info), I will write you ill-timed messages in staccato succession, send several emails stuffed with links, or post and post and post on your wall until it is all out there. I am not some stalkerish loon, it is conversely the overzealous habit of caring for you that forces me to make a point. Because once I am off in another direction or corner of the cage, we may not speak again for days, weeks, months, *ahem* years. Believe me, if I have you in my life, I care for you deeply. But my regularity of social skills leave more than a bit to be desired (in my own opinion if not anyone else's). I know that this has led to both a breakdown of many relationships in the past (both love and friendship) and that it is bound to happen many more times in my life, but I am putting it out there into the blogosphere in true blurting fashion that the Care and Feeding Of for Hamster Brain includes a modicum of understanding in the reasoning of my shoddy intimate communication skills (and life skills in general). And gently throwing mini carrots my way to regain my attention is both accepted and appreciated because as a Hamster Brain, I do often forget to eat regular meals and I may bite when "hangry."

I know that I part of a larger breed of other Hamster Brains in the universe, some of whom I have met and blurted extravagantly with and most of whom I haven't (since you are probably nose-down in the next great invention or novel or solution to the universe as a whole). And while I am not writing this in apologistic fashion, I am hoping that a few of you will actually understand where I am coming from in my overblown metaphor. I am that hamster in that cage. I know there is a huge world out there to explore. I yearn for a larger Habitrail to lead the way to new adventure and places I have never seen before. This is me. And I like carrots.

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