My Brain’s Working the Graveyard Shift

Boys Learning Baseball. Hawaii. May, 2012.

Learning’s Liveliness
I can’t shut my brain off. I lie awake at night puzzling over our chart of accounts. I close my eyes, and an onscreen menu lights up my eyelids, defying my effort to sleep. I’m thinking of payables and receivables and adjusting journal entries.

And I don’t even like accounting. Or software–at least not for its own sake.

I’m learning and loving it. We’re switching over to a new accounting system at work. While my involvement in this realm is limited (I write checks, make bank deposits, balance the bank statements and send records of the transactions to our accountant in the New York office), I’m finding the new way of doing it fascinating.

“Fascinated” is a great frame of mind for the workday. The hours flit past like bees on their way to a newly-discovered stash of pollen. I force myself to attend to other tasks that require my attention, fighting the potent temptation to immerse myself in this new software until I master it. I tear myself away to pack up and go home at the end of the day. 

Something is waking up inside me. That space in my mind that loves to learn is astir, stretching and gulping in deep breaths of fresh air. That place in my heart that draws comfort from making a solid contribution is singing. I hum at my desk.

How did I forget that I love to learn? I don’t know. I guess I got busy with other stuff and then this joy, dimmed, shuffled off to the attic. There, it slipped into a dusty corner and awaited rediscovery. It bade its time, an artifact waiting to be unearthed like some overlooked treasure carefully dug from a pit.

Learning is good for brains–especially no-longer-shiny-and-new brains like mine. Apparently, in maturity we learn best when we study something that challenges our assumptions:

Jack Mezirow, a professor emeritus at Columbia Teachers College, has proposed that adults learn best if presented with what he calls a “disorienting dilemma,” or something that “helps you critically reflect on the assumptions you’ve acquired.”’ 

(From the “How to Train the Aging Brain,” by Barbara Strauch. NY Times

I suspect challenging our assumptions might be good for our hearts, too.  Too often, I let myself focus on what’s not-so-lovable about me. I overlook all the day’s small acts of kindness and replay the one time I bristled. I forget the countless good dinners I’ve prepared over the years and dwell on last night’s overcooked corn. I assume that I should fixate on what needs improving in me. And that’s a lot of stuff.

I let my certainty in God’s love for me slip off to that dusty corner of the attic. My list of shortcomings is long, I tell you. My archives are extensive.

Why is it so easy for me to always remember how deeply He loves you and at the same time forget how He delights in me? It’s a mystery.

But the answer is tucked away in the attic.

15 The Lord has taken away His judgments against you,
He has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
You will fear disaster no more.
16  In that day it will be said to Jerusalem:
“ Do not be afraid, O Zion;
Do not let your hands fall limp.
17 “The Lord your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
Zephaniah 3:15-17 (NASB)

I’m linking up with my friend Emily Wierenga today for Imperfect Prose. You’ll visit, won’t you?