Over Christmas, my wife and I visited family in San Francisco, staying at the same beachfront hotel we had on a previous trip south eight years prior. The season, age, and my Parkinson’s progression separated the two hotel stays, factors I did my best to consider in an attempt to manage expectations, not looking to relive the past but instead to enjoy the location’s beauty on each stay’s merits.
Honest reflection requires me to say that I failed miserably. I would have preferred over the holidays the stability of reuniting memories. Instead, what I got was an emotional rush, coupled with a twinge of anxiety, from the ethereally familiar but somehow fundamentally different surroundings. Each daily walk exposed new or even contradictory revelations that admitted at least a degree of unexperienced novelty, ordinarily a good thing in my book, but not so in this instance.
Most have probably participated in the experience of visiting the same place multiple times, only to discover entirely distinctive versions of the same physical site as judged primarily through the emotional associations of those feelings. Consider how you viewed the same playground as a child with how you feel about it now.
Parkinson’s brain fog feels the same way to me: the people and places are all familiar yet distinctively different in a way impossible to identify, as if there is a laced veil draped over my head, obscuring a clear view of this world. Labels, notably people’s names, vanish from consciousness while it is easy to remember faces and shared past experiences. It can be a displacing sensation of terrifying proportions, ungrounded in an unpowered free float wherever an unseen force propels me.
Is it an invitation to glimpse another perspective of reality, as if I accurately understood the current one most familiar to me? That elicits a silent chuckle that immediately eases the brain fog’s tyrannical anxiety. It is disorienting having one foot of perspective in this world and one foot in another, begging the question, is perspective reality?