• Susan P. Koniak posted a status
    I was born with a brain that works differently. I knew always, but the things my brain wouldn't do seemed so unimportant and so outweighed by its strengths that it was easy to ignore. I kept this to myself. Never had any special education or accommodation because I excelled so at what my doctors call "compensation" and I call "finding the other way round." Until an abrupt menopause when it seemed my brain might be melting, the bad parts could not be hidden any more. That's when I saw my first neurologist and became obsessed with finding out just how different my brain really was. I talked my way into fancy recent institutes, where they studies my head, made an elaborate map with tensor morphometry, which produces an MRI picture that purports to distinguish and identify bad brain real estate from good; did functional MRI imaging to compare my brain at work with those of "normal folks"; and gave me scads and scads of neuropsychological tests. Turns out my brain's more different than I thought. On my childhood edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's verses, I crossed his name out and wrote in mine. On the cover of the notebook I bought to use as diary as a child, I wrote "Writer To Be." I became a lawyer and law professor instead, but first I also worked as a speech writer and as a law professor wrote many articles and co-authored two textbooks. I have also written op-eds for the New York Times. For over ten years now I've been working on a memoir about what it is to live in a world not constructed by or for people who are different like me. Serious medical issues intervened and some years I wrote nothing. The amount of words I've written is enormous, but most I've rejected and I've tried at least two structures before the one I have now, which I'm still not sure is right. I have five chapters that I don't hate. I can't start another chapter until I don't abhor its predecessor. When I write "free flow" all I get is a mess, so I must edit line by line as I go along. And this too is a function of my different brain. I don't keep regular order; I have Susan order instead. The doctors call that being bad at "sequencing" and I call it being me. My book begins with the opening lines of Wallace Stevens' Connoisseur of Chaos, which expresses my feeling about order best. I can't add numbers, i.e., suck at arithmetic, have great trouble spelling or getting right the order of words. As a child I said Ready, Go, Set and now say Duck off a Water's Back and there are many more examples like that. I can't find my way from here to there. If I approach my home from a novel direction, meaning from a street I don't usually go down, I can find myself lost. I can't spell; can't keep straight the rules of punctuation, which from childhood I've called all those annoying specks on the page, cannot stand and can't keep straight the words for words, like adjective and participle, and cannot parse a sentence into parts. Speaking roughly Williams Syndrome, which I do not have but which is characterized by cognitive deficits similar to mine, is the opposite of Autistic, by which I mean WS folks understand people as opposed to numbers. I read people very well and my brain, as opposed to most, works best when I'm filled with emotion. My writing is thus powerful as I can only write about what moves me, never mind the grammar, or the fact that I'm no good at describing thru my senses. My quirky parietal lobes, which handle sensory input, are responsible for that. But my overall grand sense produces power and my writing, at its best, produces a powerful punch. The problem is I'm stuck a lot. I try to write/edit every day.

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