Journeys and Destinations

On the phone to my friend, Cindy, voice quivering, occasionally leaking tears, at one point sobbing, I hoped for some answers. What was going on? Why was I so upset?

When I noticed that over the last couple of weeks I occasionally became weepy for no apparent reason, I thought that hormones, or exhaustion induced issues with sensory overload, were the culprits.

But today’s meltdown felt different. This was far too extreme to fit the label “sensory overload.” In fact, there had been no high volumes of sensory input to trigger such a reaction..

Except that the previous day, I had suffered a severe bout of sensory overload. It took me by surprise. Though I’d just left a crowded event, I was reacting far too strongly than I would have expected. Also, the event wasn’t all that crowded—I should have experienced little to no difficulties.

During my first few years of recovery, balance issues and tears were the first noticeable signs of having trouble processing high volumes of sensory input. And the tears were always followed by a full blown meltdown. Fatigue tended to make me more vulnerable to sensory input

In time, as I recovered from my brain injury and fatigue became less than an issue, the symptoms of overload, became less obvious, a momentary clumsiness, a fleeting hint of dampness in my eyes. What was yesterday’s episode about? I didn’t think my recent levels of fatigue were any worse than any I had experience over the past few years.

 https://www.goodfreephotos

https://www.goodfreephotos

And today, this inexplicable bout of crying… Was it related to yesterday’s difficulties? In the past, during the first few years into recovery, sensory overload was followed by a couple of days of emotional fragility. But that hadn’t really happened in several years.

Was depression the cause? That didn’t feel quite right either. And there was no horrendous headache, the harbinger of another brain bleed. So what was going on?

Cindy, suggested it was grief, but that didn’t sound right. Over the last few years my grief over losses incurred by the bloody brain only emerged rarely, and lasted no more than a few minutes. I was well on my way to acceptance, to the point that recently I started questioning my past insistence that acceptance is a journey, like Buddhist say of happiness.

Shortly after the brain surgeries, it made sense that I was grieving. Back then, I poo-pooed assurances that eventually I would accept my new normal. I equated acceptance with defeat. I could not, would not, live the life of an invalid. I was no malingerer.

My neuropsychologist offered another view of acceptance, that it was about learning to live with brain injury, rather than beinge afraid to live. His explanation sat well with me. Yet the use of the word “acceptance” still bothered me.

As I healed and learned to live with my brain injury, the term grew on me. I became able to accept the term. But I insisted that acceptance was a journey rather than a destination. I was sure that though I was definitely headed that way, I would never actually reach acceptance. But recently, I started believing it was within reach, that I would achieve acceptance soon, that perhaps I had actually arrived.

I asked Cindy, “But why would I be grieving now? What has changed?”

She answered without hesitation, “There’s your sister, and listening to your audio book...” and it all clicked. She was right, I was grieving, in a big way, and for good reason.

My younger sister also has cavernous angiomas scattered in her brain (Yes, it is a hereditary disease.) She also suffered brain bleeds. And few weeks ago, she underwent brain surgery to prevent future bleeds.

I visited her a couple of weeks ago to provide her with much needed emotional support and found myself confronting my own memories of the nightmare that used to be my life. In addition, over the last few days, I’ve been listening to the audio version of my memoir of recovery from my brain surgery (But My Brain Had Other Ideas).

Of course I was grieving.

This also explained the previous day’s case of severe overload—whenever I was emotionally fragile, I was also vulnerable to other stimuli. Overload is not caused just by high volumes of sensory input, but also by high volumes of any type of input, emotional, cognitive, and, of course, fatigue.

I lamented to Cindy, “Will there always be grief?” even though I knew the answer. My emotional reaction was akin to the grief experienced in the wake of the death of a loved one. And grief never disappears, it just becomes more bearable in time, resurfacing less frequently. You merely learn to live with it.

So no, I have not attained acceptance. I never will. Acceptance is a journey not a destination.

Though I am well on my way.

Balance

I admire these women, these accomplished artists who struggled against the shackles society placed on them. In order to achieve success, many felt the need to work within those restrictions, ignoring a yen to be treated as their male counterparts during the period of impressionism. Some struggled against those bonds, defying societal norms, forging a path for the less assertive and for the female artists to come.

I was aware of similar struggles facing female scientists and authors. James D. Watson and Francis Crick took credit of Nobel Prize worthy discoveries make by the English chemist Rosalind Elsie Franklin, and famed author Mary Ann Evans, whose work would have been considered unladylike, published under the pseudonym George Eliot. But until I attended the exhibit Her Paris, though I wasn’t surprised, it didn’t occur to me that women artists contended with similar prejudices.

I wove my way through the exhibit halls, marveling at the artwork. Some of the artists worked within the confines society placed on them, focusing on ladylike subjects such as motherhood or women’s fashion. But others were defiant, like Rosa Bonheur who visited slaughterhouses to understand the musculoskeletal system of cattle in order to depict them in accurately in her paintings.

Fascinated by the work of these women, I advanced deeper into the exhibit, perusing the paintings. At first, I was confused when I found myself skirting some of them. I wanted to continue exploring, moving from one picture to the next. But my brain wouldn’t let me go there. Through wisps of fog, I noticed I was avoiding herds of fellow attendees. I started making the connections after I flinched away from the sight of a woman wearing garishly colored attire, and kept my distance from a particularly boisterous group.

I was suffering from my usual difficulties processing too much sensory input. I realized through my thickening inner fog that I needed to make my escape. But by then it was too late—as often occurs in such situations, my ability make my own choices was waning. Vaguely aware I was heading towards the exit, incapable of proactively heading there, I followed the crowd.

Still able to maintain some semblance of control, I managed to skip paintings that attracted more than two or three viewers. But in my usual reluctance to give in to the bloody brain, I occasionally paused to my neck to catch a glimpse of works of art that caught my eye and drew me in.

One painting in particular spoke to me. The colors, neutral, drab even, browns and grays, weren’t the focus of my interest, neither was the skill of the artist. The main reason I felt a connection between us was the subject—the naked trees reflected in a lake lent a serenity to the painting, a much needed break from my surroundings.

I stood behind a couple admirers who were discussing the artist’s technique, allowing peace to blanket me. Finally, with the quiet grounding me in a less than ideal situation, keeping the rest of the world at bay, I could relax. As the two art critics moved on, an object that they had blocked appeared—a sharply defined paddler-bearing canoe in the left hand corner of the painting. It was directed inward. In my mind’s eye, I saw it moving forward, towards the center of the painting.

The thought of it disrupting the stillness and advancing into the lake was unbearable.

I turned away. About to continue on my way, I paused. Why did I turn away? Why did the canoe and its paddler disturb me?

I turned back and contemplated the painting for a long moment.

Though the canoe added to the composition of the painting, it detracted from the sense of serenity. But why?

Since my surgeries, I have become overly sensitive to sensory input. While my kids still lived at home, I closed myself off in my room when the sound of the television was too much for me or when they had friends over. To this day, when overwhelmed by crowds or noise, I crave peace and quiet.

On the other hand, since the surgeries, I am better able to connect with my fellow human beings. Where before the bleeds I was very much a loner, now I enjoy human contact. I love interacting with my students (though they can be a tad rambunctious at times) and I appreciate time spent time with friends.

 by Gabriel Pollard

by Gabriel Pollard

Perhaps in the past, less comfortable with the world around me, I didn’t feel the need for a balance between the noise and the quiet. Or maybe, less aware at the time, I didn’t see that I lived in an imbalance.

Now, I clearly need both the human interaction and my alone time. While unbalanced, I feel damaged, wrong. balanced, I am more me, more human.

Was this the source of my unease? The canoe, the one human being in the picture? Could it be that it formed an imbalance? I was certainly already out of balance because of the crowds around me.

Suddenly,  it clicked. The serenity in the painting guided me out of the chaos. The ripples caused by paddler in his canoe disrupted the peace, tipping me back over the edge, towards the chaos.

In that moment of clarity, I knew I had to make my escape, before I was caught once more in the mayhem. I headed towards the exit, towards the quiet.

I needed to find my balance once more.

Cookies

When Joan gave me a plate of yummy looking cookies, my immediate thought was “that’s the way the cookie bounces.” I wondered whether that expression meant the same thing as the idioms “that’s the way the cookie crumbles” or “that’s the way the ball bounces.”

According to My English Pages, “that’s the way the cookie crumbles” means, “things don’t always turn out the way we hope.” The Cambridge Dictionary it is “said when something slightly unlucky has happened that could not have been prevented and so must be accepted.” The Urban Dictionary is much more succinct—“shit happens.”

I strongly suspect that the phrase “that’s the way the cookie bounces” does not hold the same meaning as the other two.

I thanked Joan profusely, the cookies looked so good. I was also hungry. Also she went through all that trouble.

I was particularly intrigued by the spherical brown ones. Mum and I used to make ones that looked exactly the same, made of cocoa, flour, and sugar. Sometimes we added walnuts to the mix—tum!. They never lasted long in our household. I couldn’t wait to try one of Joan’s.

As soon as she left, I attacked the saran wrap that covered the plate. It put up a decent fight, but determined, I won.

I raised the largest cookie to my mouth. As I bit into it, my eyes closed in anticipation. My teeth sank into it. The texture was wonderful, somewher between shortbread and—

My eyes flew open and my jaw froze—rubber? More rubber than crumble. And the taste… Yech! Bland with a hint of bitterness. Actually, more than a hint, quite a bit more.

Was she trying to poison me?

I spat it out. I briefly thought of trying another cookie to get rid of the taste. What about one that looked like a snicker-doodle? But realized that perhaps it wasn’t a good idea. Instead, I reached for my water bottle and rinsed my mouth out with water.

After I got over the initial shock, my mind started roaming. Spherical and rubbery—if I dropped one on a hard surface, would it bounce or splat? I was sitting at my desk. The floor was carpeted. Hmmm… It had better be the desk.

I cleared away some space, took a quick look into the hallway—would witnesses be a good thing, or a bad thing? It was a moot point—there was no one there.

I picked out the most regularly shaped spherical cookies and dropped it onto the desk.

It bounced. Not high, but it was definitely a bounce.

And then it splatted.

Faith

I didn’t get religion through my life changing experience. But I did gain something akin to it.

I’m not big on organized religions—too many atrocities have been committed in their name. I do practice some Jewish customs and celebrate several Jewish holidays, but that is mostly about my Jewish identity—being a part of the Jewish people is important to me, as is my Jewish heritage and culture.

In my past life, I didn’t understand how anyone with some modicum of intelligence could believe in a God of any sort. I was completely baffled when I met a scientist who had become religious later in life—in my mind, logic and reason contradicted the notion religious beliefs. It didn’t make sense. And no one seemed able to explain it to me in a satisfactory manner, including the scientist. They always reached a point where they ran out of words.

Now, I am convinced that there are many things in the universe that cannot be explained through scientific reasoning, and there is much that cannot be expressed through words. Perhaps my conversion is in part due to my growth as a writer in the wake of the surgeries. In the process of learning the craft of word-smithing, I’ve learnt that words can actually hinder intangible issues. And I am no longer uncomfortable with those aspects of the world that cannot be expressed verbally.

But I know there is more to it than my discovery of value of words and their limitations. Something else has morphed inside me, something intangible that I have no words for.

I balked when a friend referred to my new realization as spirituality. I dislike the word “spiritual.” I feel that many people use the term “spirituality” as an alternate word to religion, often in the context of a pagan-like religion. I prefer the word “faith." (Not in the sense of superstition.) Faith so me, is a much broader term than spirituality.

Perhaps I am partial to the word because it brings to mind the phrase “leap of faith.” I like the idea that there is a gap between reason and faith (or spirituality), a gap that I was unable to bridge before the bleeds, a gap that I am now able to leap over.

 

Victim or Survivor?

To me, the term victim seems so passive and survivor more active, more involved.

When I asked my neuropsychologist about the issue, he divided those who have undergone a life threatening ordeal into two groups. There are those who take an active role in their recovery versus those who remain passive, waiting for help to come to them.

We refer to breast cancer survivors. I know several who refer to themselves as warriors, they speak of being strong, of fighting the illness. And when I think of the word victim, I envision someone lying in bed day in and day out, taking the doctor's advice to rest, to an extreme. I see someone malingering, afraid, waiting for outside help, bemoaning their fate. Do they lack strength?

What about those who succumb to cancer? And those who commit suicide in the wake of depression? What about those who grow tired of the struggle? Are they weaklings?

We speak of holocaust survivors, and rape victims. Does it make sense to associate the word victim with the act or the onset of the illness, and use the word survivor to imply that the victim is taking an active role in the recover in the aftermath of the ordeal?

At first, in shock over the brain bleeds and the subsequent mayhem the was my life, I wallowed, feeling very much the victim. I still wallow on occasion, on a particularly bad brain day. Now, I don't feel like a victim, most of the time. I don't want to be a victim.

Friends have told me that I'm brave. And I think of myself as a brain injury survivor. But I don't feel like a warrior. I don't feel particularly strong, or brave.

I feel like I just take one day at a time, bumbling along, some good days, some bad.

 I just feel like me.

Visibility

I told myself I did it for others, to help those who have struggled like me. I thought I was being honest with myself when I admitted that it was also because of my own experience. But deep down inside,I didn't really believe it I believed that it--really, I was being altruistic. It made me feel good about myself.

When I mentioned the tattoo to Dr. A., my psychiatrist, she commended me—it would probably help others who've thought of suicide connect with me and realize they aren't alone. It would be a conversation starter.

In response to her question about the location of my tattoo, I proudly rolled up the right leg of my jeans to expose my calf. But as I did so, I felt a twinge of doubt enter my mind.

Dr. A. verbalized my thought. “But that's not really visible.”

There were several reasons I'd chosen to position the semicolon on my right calf. I wanted it to cover my old tattoo from when I was a teenager, a faded, unfinished, hand-done, blurry plant of sorts. I bore that smudge of a tattoo for years. And now, finally, I put it behind me, a crisp, distinct, semicolon tattoo covering most of it. Also, I wore shorts to the tattoo parlor—it was hot summer's day and I it would be easier for the tattoo artist.

But this past week, I wore my jeans, and my tattoo, my conversation starter, was hidden from plain sight. Were the old tattoo and the weather the true reasons for the placement of the semicolon? Hadn't I originally thought to position it on my wrist? Why did I change my mind?

Could it be that this tattoo was more for me, a symbol of my issues with suicide ideation? To remind me to stay away from the abyss? Rather than for the world to see and question?

I know, from past experience, that there is a high probability that I still have struggles with thoughts of suicide ahead of me. I suffer from severe depression and am dependent on meds to manage it--meds lose effectiveness and life happens.

For several years, I believed I didn't have it in me to take my own life. I told Cindy and my therapist “Well, yes, I've thought of suicide, but I don't have it in me.”

Finally, a couple of years later, when writing about my thoughts of suicide, I came to realize that there were no guarantees.

The exchange with Dr. A. made me rethink the state of my mental health. Until now, I only saw killing myself as a remote possibility . Now, I know that the chance I will slip over the edge is very real. And given the right set of circumstances, or the wrong ones... I'd be able to end my life. And I know exactly how I would go about it.

Now I know that the semicolon is for me, much more so than I realized.

But, I do want to help my comrades in arms. I want them to see it and realize they are not alone, that it's okay to talk about it. And maybe, I will actually help someone to step away from the edge.

I also want people to ask me about it, people who have never thought of suicide. I want to reach those who think suicide is a cowardly and selfish act, to those who judge and stigmatize, feeding the shame associated with it.

Suicide should not be a taboo subject. It should be discussed, in the open. Otherwise how can we possibly learn how to give hope to the hopeless.

There is another tattoo in my future, the very near future—another semicolon in a visible location. Not on my forehead, perhaps on my arm.

Ampersand

There have been several semicolons in my life, pauses, stretches of time when my life was a struggle, when I felt I was merely existing, barely surviving.

One such stretch lasted several months--the time between my brain bleeds and when I made the decision to undergo brain surgeries to give myself a chance to reclaim my life. The others we related to my mood disorder. One such semicolon lasted a few days, another, a couple of weeks, and the worst of the lot, a couple of years.

I suffer from severe depression, a common malady among brain injury survivors. At first, I assumed it was situational. After all, I had been through a lot. But within a few months it became clear that there was a significant biological component to it.

Most of the time my depression is well managed with meds. But life happens and antidepressants need to be adjusted—I found myself spiraling down into the abyss, struggling with suicide ideation. Fortunately, so far, I've managed to catch it in time. Many of us who suffer from depression or other mood disorders, aren't as lucky as I have been, and die of suicide.

After hearing about project semicolon, I decided to join the movement--I recently acquired a semicolon tattoo. Quoting from the project semicolon website (http://www.projectsemicolon.org/): "A semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended, but chose not to. That author is you and the sentence is your life."

Project semicolon is "...dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction and self-injury. Project Semicolon exists to encourage, love and inspire." Semicolon tattoos act as conversation starters with the goal of raising awareness of issues associated with the mentally ill, including suicide.

I like the symbolism behind the semicolon. Every time there was a pause in my story, I chose to continue. The message is powerful. Not only have I struggled with suicide ideation, but I have also struggled with the stigma involved. I've heard many a reference to suicide as a cowardly act, a sign of weakness, of selfishness. In fact, there are some of us for whom it is an act of bravery, of selflessness--not wanting to die, but convinced that the world would be better off without them, that they are worthless, merely a burden. Others struggle for so long that they give in to a level of exhaustion many of us can't begin to imagine.

I personally know a handful of people who killed themselves. In each case, there were those who responded with anger. “How could she do this to me?” Suicide is one of those taboo subject that makes us feel uncomfortable. Suicide is deemed shameful by those left behind and those who have thought of it.

At one point, I realized I needed help but was reluctant to seek it. At first, I kept my thoughts to myself because I didn't want anyone to stop me. But later, when I somehow managed to crawl out of the abyss, shame prevented me from revealing my state of mind to everyone, including my therapist. Ashamed of my thoughts and of my reluctance to seek help, I kept quiet for years.

If we want to help those of us who contemplate taking their own lives, we have to remove the stigma, we have to overcome our discomfort, our feelings of shame. Discomfort versus a chance to save a life--the choice is clear. Let's talk.

The semicolon tattoo on my calf not only symbolizes my own struggles, but it is also there for those who have undergone similar difficulties. I hope that the semicolon movement will remove the shame associated with suicide, an obstacle on the path towards the help they need, towards life.

But somehow, a semicolon doesn't seem to be quite enough. The path meanders, twisting and turning--life happens. What happens after the pause, after the darkest of times? Perhaps an ellipsis, a symbol of... nothing much, a dreary existence, too often on the verge of yet another semicolon. Maybe a period after all? There are no guarantees.

Perhaps an ampersand should follow the semicolon to add the light we all need to chase away the shadows, to keep the story going. First, there's the pause, and what happened next in her life's story?

An ampersand as a symbol of hope for those who have suffered hopelessness.

A friend of mine, Tonya, warned me after I got the tattoo: "They warned you that tattoos are like potato chips, right? Once you have one, you want a whole bagful."

I laughed. But now I wonder. Perhaps my next potato chip, my next tattoo, will be an ampersand.

Story Breaks

My Story is broken. The break lies between my old life, before the brain bleeds, and my new life in the wake of the surgeries.

Palm1.jpg

As a teenager I became convinced that at some point I would undergo a life changing experience. As an adult it became a fact in my mind. For no logical reason.

It started with mild curiosity about palm reading—my life line was broken. It was in two pieces that lay parallel to each other, overlapping for a short stretch. At the time, my interpretation, based on nothing, was that somewhere in time, my life as I knew it would end, and as it approached its end, my new life would continue. Hence the parallel overlap.

Until the brain bleeds, when confronted by anything woo-woo, I immediately scoffed at it. There was no Earthly reason for me to take my broken life line seriously. But I did. And throughout my adult life, I'd wonder about it every so often. Was my story going to end? Would it resume in a different form while the first was waning? Did it indicate a drastic changed in careers? Perhaps it had something to do with having kids. But none of the theories felt right. Until the brain bleeds.

Lying in bed one day, a few weeks after I returned home from Arizona, where I had the surgeries, an epiphany struck hard—this was what the break in my life line was about. The break and overlap corresponded to the stretch between the brain bleeds and the surgeries. And now, I am living my new life, the remainder of my life line.

Even now, as I examine my emotions and thoughts through the years about the break in my life line, I have no explanation for them. And at no point did I question them. Foreshadowing? Premonition? Residue left over from my teenaged naïve search for the meaning of life? I have no idea, and quite frankly, I don't really care—it was, it happened, that's how I felt and thought.

Whether my life line had anything to do with it, there is a semicolon in my life's story, a pause.

I paused between the bleeds and the surgeries. My life revolved around the bloody brain. I had little room for anything else. Numerous doctors' visits, trips to the ER, which always resulted in hospital stays, seizures, indescribable headaches, severe vertigo, loss of balance, tremors, confusion. I couldn't drive, I couldn't teach, I couldn't take care of my kids.

I wasn't living. I was merely existing, shuffling from day to day, hour by hour, hoping I wouldn't take a fall.

But, unwilling to accept this mere existence, I decided to take a chance. My only hope for reclaiming my life was to undergo brain surgeries. There were no guarantees, I could die, get lost in a coma, or become a vegetable. But the odds were in my favor. According to the neurosurgeon, I had a more than 90% chance of a successful outcome. I wasn't sure what he meant by success, but I was willing to place my life in his hands.

The surgeries marked the end of my three months long semicolon. It was time to move on with my new story, a story of ongoing recovery, of living with the threat of another bleed, a story of growth, of life. 

Labeling

How did I find out about sensory overload? Did I read about it? Did my neuropsychologist mention it? When did I learn of it? I certainly didn’t know about it when I was at the spinning retreat, SOAR, more than a month post-surgery. In putting the pieces of the puzzle together, in rereading past journal entries, I think I finally started understanding overload more than three months post-surgery.

During that period of ignorance, I became terrified whenever my circuits jammed up, the terror further aggravating the overload.

Once I discovered its label—“sensory overload”—I started learning how to prevent it by minimizing my exposure to overwhelming levels of sensory input. I learnt to set up safety nets for the unavoidable situations when I expected trouble. I brought earplugs along with me or asked friends to keep an eye on me and lead me away if necessary.

As I struggled to navigate my way through this new nightmarish world of recovery from brain injury, labels acted as compasses, orienting me in my struggle to survive, giving me direction. They helped me recover my sense of self, understand and begin accept what had happened and who I had become.

Approximately a month after the onset of the bloody brain, I mentioned to a friend of mine that I felt really sad much of the time.

“It’s only natural. After all, you are grieving for your losses.”

Her use of the word “grief” brought me immense relief. The generic term “sadness” had made me feel inadequate. I equated sadness with wallowing. I saw my sadness as sign of weakness. I was being needy, seeking pity.

But grief was natural, it made sense, it was a fact, understandable, acceptable. From then on I let each bout of grief run its course without trying to hide it or to make excuses for it. I had suffered losses, I was grieving, and that was all right.

Self-doubt often plagues brain injury survivors. We lose confidence in ourselves, in our mental capacity. If anyone gives the slightest indication that we may be wrong, that we may not have performed a task appropriately or in a timely fashion, we start questioning ourselves. Am I fit to perform my duties? Did I remember incorrectly or did he? Am I not trying hard enough? Is the situation as bad as I believe it is? Am I over-dramatizing? Is it all in my head?

More than six months after the surgeries I came across the book “Over my Head” by Claudia Osborne. The author suffered a brain injury as a result of an accident. From her book I discovered that when I was caught in an emotional feedback loop, when I panicked and suffered horrific meltdowns, I was “flooding,” in the wake of sensory overload. I learnt about “disinhibition,” which explained the increase in my profanity, and the fact that I was now quicker to anger.

Such labels brought the validation I needed to badly—my difficulties were real, I wasn’t being melodramatic. And once I could address the deficits by name, I could learn more about them, their causes, and how to manage them effectively through coping mechanisms and compensation techniques.

Magic

I do a lot of fun thinking in the shower. I have a lot of “AHA!” moments with water streaming down my back. It's often the place where I get unstuck on a piece I'm writing. It's also where I find myself questioning myself and my world.

Today, I was thinking about electricity and I realize that I really don't understand electricity the same way I understand Newtonian Physics. It's just not tangible enough.

I learnt about electricity in college (and high school) and I understood the theory behind it. But really, when I think about it I only kind of got it. I see its applications in lighting, A/C, cars, phones, the internet, and the theory makes sense to me. But in fact, I can't quite grasp how it works.

However, since the theory does make sense to me and the pictures are pretty, I can believe in the existence of electrons and electric currents, though I can't see or feel them.

Take gravity on the other hand—I can feel the difference between the weight of a feather and that of a calculus book. I can feel the difference in the velocity when I press the accelerator in my car. It's tangible, I understand it at a completely different level than I do electricity—there is less of a leap of faith involved.

I remember my father, a metallurgist, once telling me that he doesn't quite get math, that he doesn't understand why a given proof works. He told me that it was like magic, outside the realm where his reason lay. His statement took me completely by surprise. That was my first inkling that mathematicians just think differently than most people, processing data in an unusual combination of linear ans nonlinear thinking.

I have to wonder how many of my calculus students feel that the equations, theorems, and proofs I spew only kind of make sense? Perhaps, at some level, it's like magic to some of them. Like electricity is to me.