“My favorite color?” I will repeat, blinking in bewilderment. Wait…what’s a color? Think, brain! But my uncooperative brain will begin to spin in panicked circles, unable to pick a single color from an apparently infinite spectrum. “Um…blue?” I will blurt out, the first color to leap out of the void.
Green and brown, you idiot! I will mentally scream at myself moments later. Because duhhh – green and brown have been my clear favorite colors for years. So why on earth couldn’t I remember when put on the spot?
It happens more often than I care to admit. Someone will ask me a question – a simple question, even, but suddenly, my mind will go completely, utterly blank. My outstanding vocabulary, which flows so easily when I write my thoughts, shrinks to the size of a fourth-grader’s.
It is not as simple as poor memory, nor is it a lack of intelligence. The truth is that I have always had (and still have) a very strong memory. I can easily memorize and recite long speeches or poems or important historical facts. I can then dissect said speeches and poems and historical events, analyze them deeply, and write impressive essays regarding theme, inference, and cause and effect. However, should the topic of said speech, poem, or historical event come up in a real, live conversation, then all will be lost, as though someone has reached into my head and clicked off the light switch.
Person: What do you think is the theme of Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening?
Me (heart racing, panic): Um…
Person: Do you think that he was referring to death?
Me (blinking rapidly): Um…I don’t know.
Of course, an hour later, when I am feeling overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caring for children, and work, and school, I will glance in longing at my comfortable bed and pile of books for pleasure reading, and I will remember how much I identified with Frost’s character, and recite to myself:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
It is strange, I know. Though perhaps it is a common occurrence among shy people. One quick Google search for “My mind goes blank when talking to people,” and one will stumble upon a myriad of sites and forums for the socially anxious, filled with other people who experience this. And perhaps it is made worse by my long periods of isolation, during which I barely speak at all to anyone besides my own kids. It’s almost as though, when I am finally presented with a real, honest-to-goodness grownup to talk to, my mind freaks out. What? Are we live? Now? Wait! I’m not ready! I forgot my lines!
Sigh. Well, I guess I could always try answering questions in writing.