A Bug’s Life (re-posted)

This past week brought about several revelations, the effect of which has been that I feel a little more put together. At this point, I cannot really describe the paradigm shift that’s occurred, for I haven’t fully processed it myself, lest I ruin it by dwelling on it. Nonetheless, this headspace prompted a flashback, resulting in this re-post from a Facebook note dated February 11, 2009. The notion with which I concluded that note is the same sentiment I’m feeling today. In that sense, it’s encouraging to look back at old notes, to see continued progress, and to re-capture, perhaps, some of the perspective I had, back when what I’m doing now was unimaginable. Once again, the lack of capitalization in these older compositions was due to poor fine motor skills – it was just easier to type in lower case. Enjoy.

A Bug’s Life

earlier this year i was wandering through Toys ’R’ Us, talking to my older brother, jim, on my cellphone. jim’s son, matt, was turning 8 and i needed birthday present ideas. finding presents for my nephews or niece is not a simple thing. i like to find unique gifts that encourage activity and imagination, yet are still cool enough to help anya and i in our quest to become their favorite aunt and uncle.

we were pretty successful this past year, inching closer to that status. matt’s older brother, mike, received a toy plane powered only by air-pressure that flew surprisingly well. despite getting it stuck in a tree, and needing several scotch-tape repairs, mike told me it was “the best flying present i ever got!” i’m not sure how many “flying presents” he could’ve received in his 10 years, but i took it as a compliment.

i was hoping for a similar reaction now from matt and continued to comb the aisles of the toy store after receiving some ideas from his dad. maybe it’s the natural work of nostalgia, but it seems to me that the quality of toys has dropped over the years. the toys of my youth seem so much more innocent and pure. granted, there were some dark times when pogo-balls were all the rage, but it seems that if you want any hope at all of getting a memorable gift these days, it has to plug in.

despite this apparent trend, i try to find something that doesn’t tether my nephews to a wall in order to be enjoyed. fortunately for me, this isn’t too difficult with matt. he’s into animals, tractors, and anything to do with farming. living right beside his grandparents’ dairy farm gives him plenty of opportunity to indulge in all these things. in fact, given the opportunity to take lessons in any activity at all, matt said he wanted to go to work on opa and oma’s farm. though it’s probably a textbook definition of child labour, matt goes to work on the farm one day a week now.

in order to help matt unwind from his one day work week, i wanted something engaging and exciting. after considering and rejecting various remote-controlled dinosaurs, i found the perfect gift: a bug vacuum. a bug vacuum is shaped like a gun and this one looked like it was made from leftover Buzz Lightyear parts. pulling the trigger starts a vacuum which sucks the bug up through the barrel of the gun into a clear plastic container. a lid is then flipped across the container and the container can then be removed. matt will think this is awesome, i thought. heck, i thought it was awesome.

once matt had opened all his presents, we immediately went outside to vacuum up some bugs. the first thing we caught was a leatherjacket which is basically a large, clumsy mosquito. it doesn’t bite or sting, and flies around erratically, like a drunk stepping off a merry-go-round. these are pretty boring critters at the best of times, and watching one in captivity was about as thrilling as waiting for a bus. given how easy it was to catch, the low payoff of capturing one should have been expected. in any case, matt released the flying sloth, and we went off in search of more active game.

we marched over to the equipment shed and i managed to suck up a spider. matt was pretty excited over this catch, but i had bigger plans. as we headed back to the house, i stopped at a bee hive in a corner by the flower bed. pulling the trigger on the vacuum to hold the spider still, i positioned the vacuum-barrel directly above a bee.

that’s right, a bee.
and a spider.
in the vacuum container.

matt and i were both giddy with excitement as i removed the container from the vacuum-gun, and we sat down on the deck to watch the battle unfold. we each picked who we thought would win and why. the bee was mobile and had a stinger, but the spider had more limbs and could easily tangle the bee with some strategic web-work. despite or perhaps because of these distinct differences, i found myself relating to both. the spider was like the “old me” before the accident. i was productive and industrious, yet easy going and low-key. like the spider, i led a fairly simple, basic life. the bee portrayed the “new me” in several ways. i’m much more tense and anxious now, as bees appear to be (i don’t like to anthropomorphize animals, but bees do look tense). additionally, i often feel busy as a bee. i heard somewhere that bees aren’t actually as busy as they seem, rather they just can’t buzz any slower. in reality, that’s probably a more accurate description of how i feel. i’m not as busy as i seem, rather i just can’t slow down the anxiety and stress.

like the spider vs. bee death-match going on in the bug vacuum container, my two selves are in constant competition. the nature of my head injury means that these two sides must interact. i can’t ignore one or the other. ignoring the old self is impossible because that version continues to be my point of reference, even as i adapt to the difficulties i have. ignoring the new me would be a textbook case of denial. so these two sides must co-exist, and this arrangement creates a constant tension through which i must battle. like the conflict taking place in the bug vacuum, people are largely left to watch from the outside, and like the bugs trapped inside, i can’t leave and i can’t hide.

with the bug battle drawing a sellout crowd on my brother’s deck, the two combatants traded points. thinking about it now, i can’t help but liken this to early roman gladiator contests. i’m not a blood-thirsty person, but i feel a little guilty for succumbing to primitive instincts by staging this showdown…

anyway, back to live action: the spider took an early lead, using its web to inhibit the bee’s movement. it appeared the spider was set to immobilize the bee and walk off with the win. the bee, however, fought back and made some damaging strikes with its stinger. the battle progressed and it seemed like there would be no winner as both sides calmed down. this was boring so i shook the container to force some action.

the struggles i have tend to calm down once i get into a routine and string some good days together. i almost forget the difficulties i have, and the difference between the “old spider-me” and “new bee-me” (or newbie me, as it goes) seems negligible. predictably, when things get shaken up, when i attempt new things or have to adjust to unexpected changes, the limitations flare up and i have to fight that much harder. the effort it takes to minimize my anxious tendencies illuminates how different things used to be. this stark contrast between my spider life and bee life can be overwhelming at times, and i have to fight especially hard to stay sane and/or positive. as time passes, these labels of “old” and “new” become less relevant but no matter how you look at it, there will always be that period of time where i didn’t have a head injury, and this time where i do. in the meantime, these “old” and “new” versions clashing together make life a daily battle of varying intensity.

in the end, the spider and bee wore themselves out. a little disappointed, matt and i let the fighters out of their cage. the battle was over, and there was no distinct winner or loser. i find myself thinking that perhaps neither creature is a good representation of me. as more time passes post-accident, the juxtaposition between the old me and new me lessens. eventually, i’ll just be me – ultimately no worse than before in any real important way, and in many ways better. in time, i won’t be the spider or the bee.

i’ll just be the container where they used to struggle against each other.

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About jaybrandsma

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4 Responses to A Bug’s Life (re-posted)

  1. Gloria says:

    I love this one and the analogies. You are not “just the container” despite what you have learned and in actual fact we all have some spider and bee i us without the “accident’. love G

  2. How could you diss a pogo ball?? I rocked on my pogo ball, I could even jump rope while on my pogo ball.

  3. jaybrandsma says:

    Cheryl, I’m sorry, but jumping rope on a pogo ball only embarrasses the jump rope.

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