I just stumbled upon this draft of a blog post I wrote back in January. I’d forgotten about it, as I think I was planning on adding some finishing touches before publishing it, but then the Big Freeze happened, mid February, and quite dramatically trampled my piddly little Brain Freeze. What actually happened was my brain froze even further, and I simply couldn’t resurrect the feelings I had when I first wrote this, and then plain forgot about it. But this morning, as I woke up with an idea for a new blog post, I found this old draft, and decided to give it the much anticipated polish. Because sometimes it’s interesting to dig into some old feelings and let yourself be astonished at how much has changed, just in a short period of time.

Here’s what I wrote in January:

———- “I can’t make sense of my brain today.” This is what I just said to my husband, who, clearly, doesn’t suffer from this condition, having spent the last year working even more than before COVID-19.

I, on the other hand, with my work hours severely cut because of the pandemic, and a lot of time on my hands to fret and run circles around my mind, keep finding myself in this weird state of brain freeze. At the beginning of the pandemic last March, I was almost excited to be given time to do things that I’ve always wanted to do, things I was curious about and things that really needed doing.

Here are some of the things I tried in 2020 (sorry for TMI issues):
– cut myself an undercut and then grew it out again (too much maintenance).
– tried eyelid tape to stop my hooded lids from drooping (ridiculously wrong on my face, and no, I’m not sharing a photo of myself)
– dyed and bleached and re-dyed my hair numerous times (because why not)
– started a podcast (luckily I set things in motion before the pandemic and then clung onto the momentum for dear life)
– joined a friend’s yoga class in England (wouldn’t have been possible before Zoom and pre-pandemic)
– joined an art subscription service online (it is mainly in Spanish, so I get to learn about art while getting back into one of my languages)
– joined a flamenco dance course online (I was probably too enthusiastic for this one, as I gave up after one week, but am keeping the subscription in the vain hope that I’ll do it one day)

Most days, I’ll happily choose one or more of my many activities and feel a sense of achievement.
Some days, that doesn’t work at all. This morning I almost started crying when I couldn’t rip a piece of paper towel clean off the roll. Then I stepped into a wet patch on the floor wearing socks and felt such intense anger well up inside of me that I got worried I’d lose control and smash something or scream. With S next door on a call that would have been an interesting scenario.

I’ve also noticed that I really struggle with making decisions. My brain just doesn’t want to focus, and I find myself torn all the time, paralysed and promptly angry with myself for feeling so foggy. Simple things, such as “do I take a yoga class on Zoom now, or should I spend an hour writing, or do I clean the bathroom?”, become stressful situations. And sometimes there are bigger decisions: “Should we sell our house and try to find something smaller? Or should we stay put and invest in our house?”

Admittedly, I’ve never been the best at making decisions. If I’m really stuck, I always choose yoga. I used to be much better at trusting my intuition, listen to my gut, when making decisions, but over the years, I’ve lost touch with that side of myself a little.

It’s been over a year since I’ve left this country, and almost five months since I’ve been outside of Texas. I’ve noticed that this situation – I’ve never spent this much uninterrupted time in the US – has resulting in a very interesting phenomenon. ———-

iconic mural on South Congress

So that’s where I stopped writing back in January. The interesting phenomenon I was starting to mention is this: I have made peace with being in Austin. I haven’t been able to run away to Europe for a while. Driving along the city’s streets, I now feel a sense of connection and appreciation and even love. It’s like Austin is winking at me, saying “See, I knew you could do it.” This city that has asked so much of me and my family, that I never felt had opened itself up to me fully, has finally chuckled, pulled me close into a head lock, ruffled my hair and put a big smacker on the top of my head. It has become Home. And my brain is thawing out! Being vaccinated and feeling a sense of normal life coming back has obviously played a huge part. But I can feel creativity pouring back in, I’m brimming with ideas and plans and what’s more, those ideas and plans are no longer connected to other places and “the grass is greener elsewhere” ideas. Of course, I’m still an outsider, a rolling stone, who will probably always put my head in various places and never just one, but for now, this works. I feel like I belong.

I’m a little nervous about how I’ll feel at the end of this summer, when we’ve spent a few weeks back in Europe. Yes, we’ve booked flights! I’m not looking forward to the travelling part, but the rational side of me knows it’ll be fine, since we’re all vaccinated, and so are our parents. I really really really can’t wait to see my friends and family and to be in all those places I’ve missed so badly over the last two years, but I’m also somewhat apprehensive. It’s easier to paper over my own fragmented bits when I’m in one place (and those pieces of paper have definitely got stronger), but how will it feel when I visit my other “homes”, and then have to leave again?

Learning how to cope with fragmentation is an ongoing process. I’m planning to post a lot of articles, videos and info on Austin in the coming months. Sharing my place with others, even if they can’t see it in person, is a huge part of feeling connected.

2 thoughts on “ Brain Freeze ”

  1. Dear Stefanie, great to read you are visiting friends and family soon. It must have been hard times for you and for all of us living abroad. xxx Luise

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