Delayed Feedback?

Here’s something I’ve noticed since having a traumatic brain injury (TBI). It’s most apparent when I do a crossword puzzle. I call it delayed feedback because I don’t know what it really is. 

So, I just picked up a puzzle I partially finished a couple of days ago. There’s a six-letter blank with the clue least elevated. The last three letters are ‘est,’ telling me the word is probably not a gradient but an all-or-nothing. I worried over every iteration I could think of to complete the word, but nothing came. A blank. It’s weird, but I’m learning that, to complete a thing, I often need to not complete it and do something else. It’s a negative circle: To do something, don’t do it.

Now, days later, I pick up the puzzle, and what stymied me two days ago, is obvious without even thinking: lowest. Natch. What else could it be? Wouldn’t any fifth grader have seen that? And everything connected to that word is easy, too. It’s as if my brain has been secretly working on the problem. Apparently, my brain – maybe all brains – need time to cook over these problems. So my negative circle is only partly true and should read: To do something, don’t consciously struggle with doing it. Instead, let your brain secretly work on it while you are otherwise engaged…

The brain at work in a secret chamber…

I should have known this. Going to sleep while thinking about something uses up a full page in the self-help bible. Give your brain a problem to sleep on, the wise ones say, and wake up knowing the answer. This has never worked for me, but maybe a coma reset this instruction? Maybe my self-help prescription should have included a heavy dose of get run over by a car

For all I know, this might be age-related. I’ve never been 65 before, and science tells me that time plays havoc with brains, but I’ve learned to rest in this new phenomenon. Instead of going into crisis mode, positive I’m forgetting something elementary, I relax and let natural forces take over. It’s a common theme: instead of a crisis, take a breath, utter a prayer, breathe, and let your body work how G designed you. Another Wise Man – definitely not a self-help guru – once said that “The wind blows where it pleases; you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going,” so I rest in nature’s way, knowing that if I can’t understand the design, someone else does. It’s said that the brain likes nothing more than a problem, so I give mine plenty. 

The NYT Crossword

And, just in case you’re wondering, I have never, ever, completed a weekend NYT Crossword. With or without my brain. 

How to Solve and Problem, Harvard Health
Repair Your Brain with Sleep, Psychology Today

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