I find that if life is either too intense or too dull, I have trouble writing. Excess intensity of feeling as well as dullness of feeling are not allies in this endeavor. Intensity applies to positive affect as well as negative affect: it is difficult to write when you fall in love as much as when you fall out of it.
It’s been five very stressful days since a brought grandma back to the apartment. At times, I’ve felt I’m barely holding my head above water. At others, like now, I feel myself inspired by learning through difficulty.
Years ago a university was giving away old books and trinkets left behind students in the dorm. Among the treasures there, I found a very large collection of scientific papers published in Scientific American, 10 tomes in the collection. They had beautiful scientific illustrations which is why I took them home, but then I took interest in the papers themselves.
Among them was the description of an experiment scientists had done with rats: they would place them on a treadmill to run, and if the rat could not keep up with the pace of the treadmill, it would fall into water. In order not to drown, the rat would swim back to the treadmill and run again.
The purpose of this experiments was to examine the effect of stress and cortisol in rats. It was observed that if the rat could not consistently keep up with the speed of the treadmill, it would eventually die out of stress. However, if the experimenters adjusted the speed so that the rat would not over-stress, the rat would adapt and its cortisol levels would remain within tolerable levels as to not die.
I find myself thinking about this experiment. I haven’t been under this amount of stress probably since university. Should I continue operating at this level, I will burn out. I try to find ways in which to make my treadmill run a bit slower, because the pace at this time is unsustainable.
I notice I appreciate the very small things a lot. I share moments of good conversation and laughter with my grandmother. She also gets mad at me for not tying the trash bags tightly enough. There’s lightness in darkness, and whatever I do after this period of my life will lie in stark contrast. At the moment, walking to the supermarket feels like a sublime experience.