The Biology of Wisdom

Happy New Year! I know. The salutation feels trite after the ordeal of 2021, but here we are. We survived. This isn’t my obituary. And, we learned some things, didn’t we? Like how much our happiness depends upon biology. I sneeze, therefore I am. Who knew? This is my big take away from 2021: Biology matters. Yours and mine, all of it, mind, body, household, community, species. For me, the pandemic has been one big biology lesson. Biology is what connects us. In 2022, I plan to get better at understanding biology and how it plays in my moods, my behavior, and my relationships. Because we don’t want to repeat 2021, right? 

Billie with her puppy, Pete

Last March I took a hiatus from this blog because I wanted to write a book, which I thought was going to be a memoir about being in love in my mid-60s. The whole effort turned out to be emotional quicksand as I tried to memorialize real life in real time, invading the privacy of my cohabitant, and not allowing for the development of perspective. Memories evolve. My life is not a sitcom. The longer I failed to write anything I liked, the worse I felt about myself, and the more caustic I became. Depression, a very particular biology, sat on me. 

Finally, I gave up on writing and started working in the garden. Somehow gardening changed my brain chemistry. I had a fresh thought: Why not try fiction? In September I began to write a novel. By Christmas the first draft was complete. Now I’m gathering feedback from beta readers for the second draft. I think it was the biology of gardening, the joy I feel with my hands in the dirt, that opened my mind to writing a different book.

I’ve been sober since June 2020. Just a year and a half. The struggle continues. In November I had to go to Florida on a family mission. While I was there, mud wrestling my dark side, I realized it was the first time I had been to Florida sober. On previous visits I enhanced the experience with liberal doses of tequila and Jack Daniels. On this trip there was no escape from my naked brain. I was cranky. I had trouble sleeping. But I made it home sober. Of course, drinking changes my biology. It’s like a feather pillow for my mood swings, gives me the illusion of being happy and I crave it. 

In December I got the flu from my flu shot and for five days the body aches, fever and fatigue turned me into an axe murderer. The F-word overpopulated my vocabulary. I kicked the puppy. Had a big pity party for myself. Then three weeks later, on Christmas we came down with Omicron despite our triple vax. I still have the cough and fatigue. And all I want to do is sleep and complain. Boohoo, poor me. A virus is attacking my species and I have big skin flakes on my nose. I blame biology.

This is life in a human body. Mine. Yours. Watching the pandemic unfold, I realize I know more about how my computer operates than how my biology operates, and yet, my whole life — how I feel, what I think, what I do — is determined by my biology. So, in 2022 I’m taking biology lessons, going to explore the biology of wisdom. I hope it’s one of the benefits of age. 

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12 thoughts on “The Biology of Wisdom

  1. Please keep sharing with us! Your writing is just delightful, and I really appreciate how you look at life. Looking forward to reading your new work of fiction! You always give me something to think about or see in a new way.

  2. I’m so glad you’re back, Billie. I find that, at the age of 75, I know a lot more about my body than ever before; partly because I took it for granted for most of my life, and also because I find myself reading so much stuff about arthritis, knee replacement surgery, heart-healthy diet, cataract surgery, dental implants, hearing loss . . . Of course, none of that would have caught my eye when I was younger.

  3. Once again I am here commenting on how much I enjoy reading your words. Please don’t stop.
    Thank you,

  4. Is that dog a Cyclops one-eye? Yeah. Biology. I liked painting up The Invisible Man in high school. Lungs purple. Heart red. Ass translucent. Far as lazy ol Berlin gets in land of science, much as it always points out what we DON’T know more so than what we do. Your’s is truly the examined life worth living, Bil. ML

  5. Sounds like it’s been quite the year for you…thanks for sharing so openly. I’m intrigued by your jump from memoir to fiction. So far, that’s never happened to me (I have one published memoir, another slated for May, another completed and a fourth in the works.) I’ve yet to have a great idea for a novel take over my brain, and I wonder how that happens! Best wishes for a healthy, productive 2022!

  6. So glad you’re back, Billie! I was in bed reading when I stumbled across your email and your return to your blog. So glad you have! You kept me gripped and smiling all the way through. Thank you so much!

    Looking forward to hearing more!

    Thank you for the giggles. ?

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