Your brain may be a mansion, but mine’s a tiny house

Physicist Albert Einstein made effective use of his mental real estate. His brain was preserved and dissected after death and found to be a little smaller than average. AP

The latest edition of the Statesman’s Business Insider magazine focuses on real estate, so of course that got me thinking about my brain.

Several years ago, I was driving down Fairview Avenue after lunch, with my husband in the passenger seat. Suddenly, half of my left eye filled with what looked like a light mud-colored curtain.

I blinked and it didn’t go away. I pulled over, and he drove the rest of the way home.

Two days later, on a Friday, I had an MRI. (Never do that on a Friday if you can help it). By Monday, when I went into the neurologist, I had written my obituary, planned my funeral and knew what I’d tell my children.

It turned out that nothing was wrong. (Whew.) But then the doctor said: “You do have a smaller than average-sized brain. Then again, so did Einstein.”

Obviously Einstein did more with his smaller-than-average-sized brain than most of us could do with two big brains. But the notion of a small brain led me to think about “mind real estate.”

I’ve used the lack of mind real estate as an excuse for why I can’t remember something or understand some concept. More than that, though, because I have less space and maybe fewer neurons (who knows), I have used it as a way to be mindful about how I use the limited real estate of my mind.

I’ve written before about my attempt to build routine into my life so that I don’t need to use brain cells to think about what to eat for breakfast, what to wear to work, or what route to drive to the university. That leaves me more space for my mind real estate to focus on solving and finding new problems, or coming up with ideas and new mischief.

Many people use the concept of limited resources like water or energy to be thoughtful about construction philosophy when it comes to real estate. I’ve used the idea in terms of what I can do with my limited brain resources.

If I can do a good job, watch out, Mr. Einstein.

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