If You Were Made Out of Glass

I sat down on Monday to think of what I wanted to write about here, right after I read Leslie’s post about Marilyn vos Savant.

I had a couple of ideas, but they weren’t exciting me, and if they weren’t exciting me, I can only imagine what they’d do to you. So I pulled out my Fat Folder of Fervid Fun, otherwise known as my idea file. Look what was on top!

I figured that was fate!

I clipped this article because I’m fascinated with the human mind and body.

Up until 1987, when I got pregnant, I never thought much about how my ‘ol meat skin worked. But then I had questions. So many questions. My doctor would listen patiently and then tell me, “If you were made out of glass, I could answer that.”

Then in 2017 I had a benign tumor plucked from inside my spinal column which fascinated and horrified me. Still does, in fact. It seems every day is a new adventure in figuring out the brain-body connection. (If you want to read more about that escapade, it’s on my personal blog, here and here. Nothing gross, though, unless you ask nicely.)

Again, until it mattered, I hadn’t thought too much about how my brain worked. The day after my surgery they hoisted me out of my bed and two therapists held on to this strappy contraption they trussed me up in. I was chatting and laughing, happy to be on my feet and not paralyzed. They pointed me across the room toward my husband and told me to walk, so I did. But then I saw him go pale and I looked down. I honest-to-goodness thought I was walking normally, but I hadn’t moved an inch. My mind told me I was marching across the room, but my legs didn’t get the message at all. It was like when you try to call Verizon.

Recovery from spinal surgery continues to be a hoot, although not that dramatic these days. Even though it’s been five years, my brain simply doesn’t talk to my nerves very well anymore. Example … I went to step on a spider in the basement the other day. If my floor was a clock, he was on the twelve. But when I aimed at him, my foot landed at about two-thirty. What the what? Tried again. Ten-forty-five. The poor spider didn’t know what was happening and skeedaddled to ten o’clock so, of course, my foot stomped at seven-fifteen. At this point I was laughing and just hoping if I stuck with it long enough, he’d run under my foot at some point and commit seppuku.

But back to Marilyn vos Savant’s description of auditory pareidolia.

I think this interests me so much because in addition to having my nerves scrambled, I’ve done a ton of research into synesthesia, another condition that people think is made up. Synesthesia is when senses are crossed. Like if you hear a certain musical chord, you also see the color green. Or if you’re angry, you taste peanut butter. There are a million different ways to be synesthetic, all fascinating.

I read a Smithsonian Magazine article about it and it completely captivated my imagination. This was back when I wrote for kids so I wrote a couple of manuscripts in a YA mystery series where the main character had synesthesia.

My research led me to talk to people about their experiences with it—long before the internet made it easy—and so many of them had a common story. Either they didn’t realize they saw the world differently than everyone else until they were well into adulthood, or they found out in kindergarten playing with those wooden blocks with the letters of the alphabet painted on them. They’d be annoyed because the blocks didn’t match the alphabet they saw in their heads. A was supposed to be red, B was yellow, C was green and so forth, and the blocks were painted all wrong. And when they pointed this out to the other kids or their teacher, they were met with blank stares because nobody knew what they were talking about.

So if they didn’t have an experience like this with the blocks, they typically didn’t find out they had synesthesia until they were much older. This made perfect sense to me because how often have you ever had a conversation with someone about how your emotions taste or the feel of music on your ankle?

But when I wrote about my high school marching band character just learning he has synesthesia, the members of my critique group at the time called me out on it. “No way!” … “You’d totally know you were different!” … “How could he not know?”

I had to convince them, just like this woman writing to Marilyn had to convince her husband about her auditory pareidolia, a condition she most likely was born with. She probably asked her husband, “What song is that?” and he gave her that blank look.

I still want to write about Dash, my synesthetic teenager, but in the original drafts I hadn’t quite been able to do him justice. Maybe some day.

I suspect every one of us has some unique physical or brainwave oddity, whether we’re aware of it or not. So what’s yours? Does your foot come down where you tell it to? Are you double-jointed? Can you roll your tongue or turn it upside down? Can you roll your Rs? (I can’t!) Do you have synesthesia or pareidolia? Did you lose your sense of smell or taste when you had Covid? Can you sense an earthquake before it happens? Can you contort your body so it fits into a suitcase? Do you have ESP? Does the ouija board always move for you? Did you ever Jumanji anything? If not, is there some oddity that fascinates you?

35 thoughts on “If You Were Made Out of Glass

  1. My lower back works as a barometer since I was in a motor vehicle accident. I have a fairly good record of predicting thunderstorms just from how my back feels when I get up in the morning. When I lived in MA I could predict the big snowstorms or blizzards now I’m in FL.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I find that interesting! I’ve always heard people say their body parts can predict weather and I don’t doubt it for a minute. I wonder why, though. What is it about a damaged knee, or hip, or back that can suddenly read barometric pressure or whatever it’s doing? Now that you’re in FL have you lost the ability, or is there just no interesting weather to track?

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  2. Becky,
    I was so happy to read this! I have pareidolia, and so does my youngest daughter. I hear music when the blow dryer is on, the air conditioner, etc. Almost any electronic noise. My daughter and I also hear the high-pitched wine of electrical current at times. It drives her husband crazy. Bob has learned to accept that I’m ‘different,’ LoL.

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      1. “Weird” is in the eye—or ear—of the beholder, right, JC? Personally, I would like to see you do that. I’ve also wished I could raise one eyebrow. Alas…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re right, Leslie. Once I figured out how to turn my tongue upside down, there was no stopping me! I can also turn up the sides of my tongue, along with many other people, but a friend of mine from college can ripple her tongue like corrugated cardboard. I made her do it so often, that’s how she started saying ‘hi’ to me!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Fascinating, Mary! And, of course, I have questions. Is it music you already know or just generic “music”? If you and your daughter were standing in the same bathroom running a hair dryer, would you both hear the same song? Is the music different every time you run the hair dryer? Does each appliance have it’s own music? When and how did you discover this about yourself? And your daughter? Did people believe you? Did you think everyone heard music in this way? Did it worry you? omg … I’ll stop now!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Me too, Vickie! But when people do it in real life, it’s creepy. Same with winking. People do it in books and it’s charming. What’s the diff??

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      2. What I hear is usually music that I just can’t quite identify, but sometimes I can. I’ll have to ask my daughter what she hears. My thoughts are that it has something to do with the electro-magnetic currents in our bodies. I know that sounds strange, but watches wouldn’t run when my mother wore them and my daughter’s toast usually burns, no matter what the setting is on. It’s a little spooky, but I love it! It really gets my imagination going. As do all your questions. You’ve given me something to think about!

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      3. That’s so interesting, Mary! One of my sisters has that magnetic/electrical thing. I’ll have to ask her if she hears the music too!

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  3. What a fabulous post, Becky! My mother had and my sister has synesthesia, and I’ve always been a bit jealous of them. The brain (and body) are indeed wonderfully amazing things. In my WIP, Sally is trying to wrap her head around the idea that some people might have senses that others lack (this will be book six, hence “the sixth sense”). Pareidolia is a new one for me, but it sounds kind of fun! (Unlike tinnitus, which is just awful!)

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    1. What kind of synesthesia did/do they have, Leslie? I’m jealous too. It seems like a really remarkable way to experience the world. Although, there is something—can’t remember if it has its own name or if it’s a kind of syn—where if you get slapped, I feel it. That, I’m sure, would get old pretty fast. And while the “emotional flavors” might be interesting, you don’t get to choose your flavors. What if an emotion you experience a lot is linked to a flavor you hate?

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      1. They both said that numbers had colors–very strongly–and vice versa. So no slapping involved, thank goodness. They both always have said that it’s merely an interesting/fun thing, as opposed to anything bad. But it does sound fun to this non-syn schmo.

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      2. My niece has something similar which makes it easy for her to remember addresses and phone numbers. But she was an adult before she ever mentioned it to my sister.

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  4. I have lovely Neuropathy. I can’t feel the floor below my feet. Numbness up to my knee. I walk like I’m perpetually drunk, yet sadly, I’m not. 😦 It’s safer if I spend more time in my wheelchair than walking. My dachshund wouldn’t be able to get my butt up off the floor if I fell, she’d probably climb on me, curl up, and nap! Nerves are fascinating thingies! I’m sorry you share something similar-ish.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m sorry about your neuropathy, Tracy, but I’ve gotta agree … nerves are fascinating. And sometimes they’re little jerks, no pun intended! My sister told me once that everyone should practice how to get up off the floor without using their hands because when you’re elderly and you’ve fallen, you’ve probably broken your wrist and you need to have a Plan B. It sounds simple enough, but try it! It’s hard.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Sorry about the neuropathy as well.

        Yikes about falling and not being able to get up (although dachshund cuddles would be nice). When I was doing social work, I had a lot of senior clients, and all of them had a personal emergency response button (necklace pendant usually).

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  5. What a fascinating post, Becky! The closest thing I have is being able to focus and unfocus my eyes easily. I do have a cousin who’s double-jointed, and I’ve always wondered how my father-in-law could tie cherry stems inside his mouth.

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  6. Becky, this is fascinating! I don’t have any of these conditions but as an adult, I was diagnosed with ADD, which made so much sense in retrospect. And comes in handy now as the occasional excuse. Don’t blame me – blame the ADD!

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    1. I can still use the “I had a ducking toooomah!” as a perfectly acceptable excuse too. I don’t see a statute of limitations on any of it.

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  7. Oooooooooo! I love this post, Becky! Synesthesia and the like have always fascinated me. I once asked a friend if suddenly detecting the scent of oranges meant you were having a stroke. She said she was pretty sure it meant that you had The Shine. Haha!

    I am vaguely double-jointed and my second toe is ridiculously long. As I get older, I seem to acquire new bodily marvels.

    Speaking of marvels, you are downright amazing!! Your recovery and spirit are inspiring. I am still looking forward to some kind of dance party at the next con. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Aw, thanks, Kathy. And I look forward to seeing those ridiculous toes! But if either of us gets The Shine, we must vow to tell the other first. And only use it for good, not evil. Double-jointed pinkie swear?

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  8. Becky, my feet would’ve been running away from that spider!
    In our house in Tennessee, I would hear voices in the bedroom — but I couldn’t understand what they were saying, try as I might. Never mentioned it to hubs, since it sounded a bit crazy. We had trouble with our landline telephone, and the repairman went up in the attic. Turns out some old wires up there were acting as an antenna and picking up, very softly, a talk radio station! Turns out my husband had heard the voices, too, but also never mentioned it! Turned out not to be a sixth sense, but for a while I wondered.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Vickie, that’s hilarious and a definite story starter! So you were both just worried the other would think you were crazy? Not that you didn’t want to freak each other out? That’s a subplot!

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  9. Great post, Becky. Maybe Dash just knew he was different, and never mentioned it because he thought maybe he was crazy and was worried people would find out. For a teen, that’s probably enough. I have no special talents other than twisting my elbow. I don’t demonstrate that in public b/c it freaks *me* out. But I do think I can sense spirits sometimes. If I knew them in their lives, they often “talk” to me. If they’re strangers, I guess I’m not receptive, lol. But I feel their presence on occasion, and whether they are good or bad. I don’t have to ask, like Dorothy to Glinda.

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