Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Brain Cloud

If you haven’t seen the movie, Joe vs. The Volcano, get to that crusty video rental store and find a copy this weekend. Here’s the IMDB synopsis: When a hypochondriac learns that he is dying, he accepts an offer to throw himself in a volcano at a tropical island, and along the way there, learns to truly live.

Though it’s a simple concept, this little film is packed full with moments that are hard to forget. Tom Hanks is terrific and Meg Ryan plays three distinct characters. I do wish she would do an entire film as the second LaLaLand sister, Angelica; a fabulous little gem of a character.

So our hero, Joe, was diagnosed with a “Brain Cloud”. He was told it was fatal and he believed the doctor because he wanted to, being a hypochondriac and all. Slapped with that wet fish of information, he faces a choice to either give up and live the last days of his life like he lived the previous thousands or to do something new until the end. "Live like a king and die like a man".
I’m on the fifth day of a monster cold. That’s why I’m thinking about brain clouds. The sensation I have with all this sinus pressure is a brain cloud like disconnected zombie march to the refrigerator when some errant thought triggers a need that is too vague to name. It’s like the mucus has entered between brain synapses and impaired the higher functioning of my mind. Problem: my feet are cold. Solution: go to the kitchen and get a cup of cocoa with marshmallows and some graham crackers. I’m not intending to put my feet into the cocoa for warmth and it doesn’t occur to me until after my trip to the goodies that a pair of warm socks might have been the wiser choice. Hmm. Brilliant.
Isn’t that the root of all mindless eating though? Not the mucus part, although that could be  more of a problem than any of us recognize. I mean the impaired higher function of our minds.  When something gets in between the short and direct connection from the cold foot problem to the warm sock solution, we get carjacked and taken somewhere we really don’t want to be going. Let’s call this phenomena "brainjacking".

The truth is, if we were thinking clearly before we head towards the food or the booze or whatever it is we have selected to use as emotional duct tape, we’d be changing direction and heading for a far more appropriate tool for resolution. Colds and flu are a lot like “brain clouds” and while they have us in their grip, we’re facing an even bigger challenge of maintaining a food program that we chose to be on and would really like to stay on while we get ourselves over the illness, nourished and healthy again.

Let’s pretend that every year there’s a visit for us from a cold or the flu and that we don’t know exactly which day these unwelcome guests are going to show up at our door and move in until we kick their sorry rear ends out. With this foreknowledge, next time you go shopping, how about grabbing one grocery bag full of things you’re going to need to get through a few sick days? Find some canned soups that are low point value and that you enjoy eating. Get some fruit or vegetable juices, teas, low fat crackers and even a few frozen meals while your head is cloud free and you can make good decisions about which to select. Just stick them in the cupboard or the freezer and they will be waiting patiently for you when you need them.

I share this because I’m sitting here with my cocoa and my feet are cold and if I could drive right now, I’d be out buying things to make a pot of delicious soup instead of starring at the bag of chips across the room that’s asking me to jump into the junk food volcano with him.

While you’re watching the movie this weekend, think about how it felt before you decided to start a food program like Weight Watchers. I don’t know about you, but for me, I faced my closet and a lot of things in my life the same way Joe Banks faced his dehumanizing job each day. When we finally stand up and make a choice to change our bodies and change our lives, our posture in the world is instantly transformed and we don’t want to go back to the way it was before. Having this cold producing brain cloud has reminded me just how many times I was brainjacked into zombie-like decision making in years past and that I am in charge of changing all that.

There’s a scene in this movie that is one of my most favorite in any film, ever. Joe, adrift on a raft for days in the South Pacific and nearing the end is startled by the giant rising moon. He struggles to his feet and flings his arms out wide and says a line of dialog that I would chisel on a headstone if I were to ever have one (which I won’t, but that’s another story).

He says, “Dear God, whose name I do not know, thank you for my life.”  

BRILLIANT. Stunning. 
There was never a more perfect prayer written and I try to remember it every day. 

For me,I'm working on shaking off the brain cloud and getting back to conscious decision making after a few days of struggling with my cocoa vs. socks dilemna. You need to get to the store and pick up your stash of cold & flu goods. And, hey, before you go, could you pass the Kleenex?

Here’s a link to the movie trailer from1990