it's only one life: advancing the old IQ

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

If I did not want to spend most of the day discovering whether my son's very swollen ankle is broken (thank goodness; it does not appear to be), I did try to make the best of it.  Time together is, after all, time together, and lost days are not retrievable.

I had this week's Newsweek with me as the three of us traveled from waiting at the doctor's office to waiting at the hospital.  Its Sharon Begley cover story:  "31 Ways to Get Smarter—Faster."  Its premise?  IQ is elastic; it can be advanced.

I quote:  "According to a groundbreaking study published this fall in Nature, IQ can rise by a staggering 21 points over four years—or fall by 18."

Oh, yes.  I forgot to mention.  IQ can also fall.

While we waited for our son's name to be called, we reviewed the full list of IQ advancers:  Play word puzzles with friends.  Get news from Al Jazeera.  Go to a literary festival.  Build a "Memory Palace."  Learn a language.  Wipe the smile off your face (!).  Eat yogurt.  See a Shakespeare play.  Hydrate.  Visit MOMA.  Drink red wine (in moderation) and eat dark chocolate.

Sleep.  A lot.

Toss your Smartphone.

Write in long hand.

And did I mention dance? 

So much of this is common sense.  So many of these things I already do.  But convictions grow while sitting in a hospital surrounded by people whose circumstances are far worse than one's own.  The misplaced New Year's resolution comes into sharper focus.  And besides, I cannot afford to lose a single IQ point.  It would be nice to acquire a few.

I had been thinking about ways to rearrange my life; we talked about that while we waited.  I have yearned for a quieter path—one less noisy with obligation.  I want fewer distractions, stiller waters.  It seems to me that spending less time on this computer and more time with pen and paper will help me get there.  It seems important to know who my friends are—my true friends—and to spend my time with them, on them.  It seems appropriate to leave my phone at home more often or, at least, to ignore the unessential messages until they become essential; some of them, amazingly, never actually do.  It seems about time for me to finally learn my husband's language—Spanish—so that I can speak to my mother-in-law after her own fashion.  It seems that I do just have to say no sometimes—and hope that others will understand.  And if they don't, if they need more than I can give—it seems appropriate to be okay with that.

It's a new year.  It's only one life.

I wasn't the only one who sat there thinking.


Elizabeth Mosier said...

Hooray for you! And I'm glad J's ankle isn't broken!

Sarah Laurence said...

Good to hear your son didn't break his ankle but a sprain can take a long time to heal.

As for those IQ tips, can I just have some chocolate with my red wine? I'm already near bilingual American-British. Here's to leaving phones turned off and going offline to catch up with friends - cheers!

PS. I reviewed a novel last week that I think you'd love, The Last Nude by Ellis Avery. You'd appreciate the sensuous language.

Happy New Year, Beth!

Becca said...

So glad your son didn't fracture his ankle :) But a bad sprain is still uncomfortable. I hope it heals quickly.

I'm all for increasing my IQ and paring down my frenzy of activity. I've been doing better at the latter - hopefully I can do as well with the former! Those are some good tips, and I must read that article.

Melissa Sarno said...

I hope your son heals quickly.
And I love this resolution. I love it more than I can say. You should start by ordering pizza. And I have been doing Rosetta Stone to learn Spanish (Dora, ya know, she's inspiring) And, it's so funny Beth, the pictures are SO funny, I laugh so hard. You must try it.

Susan Campbell said...

Smiling? Does the article assume that people who smile accept and question less, meaning they are not using their critical thinking abilities? I'd like to know more!

(Hmm. When my son smiles, it usually means he's up to no good.)

What a great article. I've been thinking about the same "rearranging," too. Now I have an even better reason! To save my IQ points!

Glad your son's ankle isn't broken, but a bad sprain can take just as long to heal. (Oops. I see someone already said that!)


kelly said...

I'm with you. Fewer screens. More dance floors. I hereby give you permission to email me only occasionally.

Serena said...

Glad to hear that the ankle isn't broken. I hope I can gain some IQ points...that would be great.

M.L.T.S. said...

Following your beautifully-written thoughts is another way of advancing my IQ, I'm sure of it.

Mandy said...

Did I read that right? We're not supposed to smile if we want to be smart? How odd.

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