Connecting + Writing = A Happier, Healthier Brain

Recently I watched an eight-part docu-series about the brain from Dr. Mark Hyman who, among other things, is the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. It was filled with words like mitochondria, neurotoxins, and glutathione. Each episode would expire after a short period of time so I watched them intensely over the course of the week.

Of all the things I heard, there were a few stand out concepts that made a big impact on me. In discussing exercise, one of the doctors used CrossFit as as an example but not only due to the activity but also because this group in particular supports each other within that culture—it’s a sense of community. Her research suggests that being cared for could cause the brain to release chemicals that inevitably lends itself to healing (biological changes in the body) and happiness.

Since hearing this I felt compelled to reach out to a few old friends that I love but let the business of life grow distance between us. Because why not—I want a brain that’s full of happy pathways free of plaque. I didn’t expect the outcome of relieving a bit of my self imposed isolation, nor did I see that this would make for a more powerful writing experience.

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The Five Truths of My Writing Process

The writing is not happening. Even though I try not to get caught up in the New Year’s resolution “live your best life” hoopla, every January I still secretly think maybe this is the year I will finally get my shit together. But here’s the thing about shit: it likes to spread itself around and stink up everything. And once it gets into the carpet, well, it’s never coming out. Too much? Right, too much. My point is, I will never have my shit together because life is messy and unpredictable and I have to learn to deal with it. (A zen master I am not.) However, I’m not a victim of circumstance either. I can buy some bleach and get a new carpet. What I need to do first is get real about my writing process and what I need in order to make the writing happen. So I made a list, and I’m sharing it with you here because the Internet loves lists almost as much as cat videos and trolling.

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Seeing Myself As A Writer

A couple weeks ago I found myself in the office of an ophthalmologist I hadn’t been to before.

“Alright, Jessica,  I need you to lean forward, rest your chin here, and press your forehead against this brace,” she said as she turned off the lights. “Now tell me, which one of these is better, one or two?” She continued, “one or two?”  

“One,” I answered.

“Okay, now three or four? Three or four?”

“Three?” I said, less confident.

I doubt myself sometimes when answering these questions. The stakes feel so high. Like if I somehow pick the wrong number, I’ll end up with contact lenses that make my vision worse, not better.

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I Don’t Really Write Happy Endings

It’s funny that my compulsion and decision to write came simultaneously with having children. The moment I lost control of my time, and my emotions started to run a little more wild is the moment I picked up the pen and paper. I took control of words in a way I didn’t feel like I could control my life anymore.

After the birth of my second child I decided to take a writing class. This soon turned into a writing practice that has become one of the driving forces in my life. Doing this while working full time and raising two children is not easy. There are times when the guilt I feel for deciding to take the time to write is overwhelming.

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On Writing Through The Pain—Literally

Here’s a dispatch from smack dab in the middle of 4 years of chronic pain past self me. I somehow, some which way, wrote it, prolly while eating my weight in chocolate pudding and coming down off of some super sweet ass nerve blocker whose side effects included:

  • Twitching
  • Slapping my mom’s hand out of mouth
  • There’s a murderer outside waiting for me to fall to sleep and then stab me to death so I def should not go to sleep
  • The eating and eating of chocolate pudding
  • More nerve pain
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Screaming in my sleep
  • SO SO many other things

I’ve since had a major miracle spinal surgery that worked.
It worked!!!!!
So, dry your tears and read about the abject terror that is Chronic Nerve Pain.

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Getting Naked

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but in 2018 I would really like to take my clothes off in front of a room full of strangers.

Slowly, in moments snatched between feeds, nappy changes, and coaching my four-year-old through her powerful emotions, I’ve been compiling a bucket list. Things I want to do for me, when there is a me again. As I’ve assembled the list, I’ve noticed a theme. They all involve exposing myself in public.

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Books We Loved This Year: A Fixin’ To Write Best of 2017 List

Here at Fixin’ To Write we often discuss what we are reading, what we want to be reading, and share book recommendations, so now that we are at the end of our first year of writing here in this space it seems only fitting to share our favorite books of 2017 with you. Not all of these books are new, but they are the ones that engrossed and moved us this year. The list includes something for every reader: fiction, memoir, poetry, and books on writing and health. Whether you are looking for something to read over the holiday weekend or looking for a last minute gift for the avid reader on your list we hope you find what you are looking for on our list. Happy New Year from all of us at Fixin’ To Write!

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I’m Writing! Even When It’s Harder.

“Being a doctor is hard. It’s harder for women.”

This is objectively true. They actually did a real scientific study. Because you know it isn’t true until someone puts a p value on it and calls it a statistic.

I am not sure whether it matters if it is “true” or not, or whether it is statistically significant or not. There will always be someone who argues against this. They will say being a doctor is hard for anyone who attempts it.

This is true.

This doesn’t mean, however, that there are not gradations of this thing, “hardness.”

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I Had To Change It All to Get It Done

I recently participated in an Oprah and Deepak 21 day meditation. I almost always sign up when they’re available because it’s free, they have a theme, and are generally limited to 20 minutes. Regardless of the topic there’s something within the theme that applies to me and I welcome the opportunity to change up my solitary meditation practice.

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Grab Hold of The Rope: A Reminder to Trust

A string of a dozen four-year-olds paraded by the front of the coffee shop, chubby little hands grasping the rope connected by a teacher at each end. Some kids waved and smiled, one asked the teacher what we—the folks sitting at the open coffee shop window—were doing, but it was a little girl in the middle that caught my attention. She was in the center of the pack holding onto the rope just like all the other kids, but what made her stand out was that her eyes were closed. She had red, curly hair, and a tiny, knowing smile on her freckled face. She followed along, trusting the rope, trusting the teachers at either end, trusting the kids in front of and behind her. The pack moved slowly enough for me to see that she wasn’t peeking out from squinched eyes, she wasn’t glancing at the ground while trying to maintain the impression of trusting. In fact her eyes weren’t squeezed shut, they were simply closed. She looked…relaxed.

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