If you thought I was going to say, “my neighbors’ sex life,” prepare to be disappointed. No, what I’m talking about is those Facebook memes that say, “What could you give a TED talk on right now?” or “What could you talk on for 20 minutes without preparation?”
I have at times compared my brain to a steel sieve. At other times, I’ve said it’s like a steel trap, one that’s unhinged and rusty. But actually, what I think my brain most resembles is a dusty old closet with a sticky door. I don’t know how I’ll get it open and I don’t know exactly what’s in there, but I’m fairly certain there are some things in there that I don’t even remember I knew.
I have friends who have epic knowledge about various and assorted topics, from video games (and their creators) to evolution to dairy farming to the Irish language. If I were ever on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?, I would have plenty of “phone-a-friends” to use as lifelines (if I could remember their phone numbers, which I can’t).
I have all sorts of useless trivia stuffed in the corners of my brain: Armadillos are the only animals besides humans that can get leprosy. Henry Heimlich (he of the eponymous Maneuver) was a drum major at my alma mater and was married to Jane Murray, daughter of Arthur Murray, of dance lesson fame. Pear Ripple wine actually tastes pretty good. John Milton invented the word “pandemonium.” A “cenotaph” is a gravestone with no body buried under it. Some of these facts would not even be useful on Jeopardy, or even at a bar trivia night.
But when it comes to things I actually could give a 20-minute talk on, I have a choice of subjects.
First, there’s bipolar disorder. I’ve got a lot of experience with that. I have bipolar disorder myself and have been diagnosed with it for decades now. I’ve seen countless therapists and a few psychiatrists and have been on medications for decades. I’ve written two books on the subject, based on my other blog, Bipolar Me (bipolarme.blog), which I’ve been writing weekly for almost nine years – 468 posts. In those posts, I’ve covered topics including depression and anxiety, self-harm and suicidal ideation, lobotomy and shock therapy, plus a lot of everyday symptoms and treatments for the disorder.
I’ve written about why you can’t say assorted famous people have (or had) bipolar or various other disorders. I’ve engaged in the debate over what causes bipolar disorder and whether psychiatric drugs are helpful. I’ve even written about why people with bipolar disorder sometimes aren’t able to take showers (one of my most popular posts, for some reason).
Another topic I can expound on extensively (and have, much to my husband’s chagrin) is country singers and songwriters. I can tell you why Willie Nelson’s Shotgun Willie album was so important; how The Sound in Your Mind prefigures Stardust; how “On the Road Again” was written; what movies he’s been in (and why one of them was called Honeysuckle Rose); how Django Reinhardt influenced his guitar style (and who Django Reinhardt was); and what other singers have recorded his songs (Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” for example, was one of his).
I can talk endlessly about Kris Kristofferson’s early encounters with Johnny Cash, his marriage to Rita Coolidge (and how it broke up) and his hot fling with Janis Joplin; his political activism; his military career; how he came to write “Why Me, Lord?”; and what the original lyrics to “Sunday Morning Coming Down” included. I can expound on his education and his fondness for the poetry of William Blake. I can even tell you the specific time he stopped drinking.
I know which country songs were written by Shel Silverstein (yes, that Shel Silverstein). I can talk about the Outlaw Country movement and underappreciated women songwriters like Gail Davies, Matraca Berg, and Gretchen Peters. I can even talk about alliteration and internal rhyme in the lyrics of Kinky Friedman and how his songs were reflected in the mystery novels he wrote. (Yes, I have two degrees in English and have never gotten over it entirely. But I digress. In fact, this whole post has been something of a digression.)
And that’s why I never get invited to parties.