My body gave me a lecture last night. I deserved it.
I’d been feeling run down for the last two weeks, and not without reason. I’ve taken on more social and personal commitments and haven’t managed them well. Daily exercised stopped. Food choices got lazier. I drank more and slept less.
The body is wonderful. It moves you around, keeps you sharp, manipulates the world for you. It does your job. It gives affection to your loved ones. It carries your life for you. We tend to notice its generosity only once it begins to withdraw it.
It’s also forgiving, maybe a little too much. It will take a lot of shit before it gets mad. It gives poilte hints all the time — the 3 o’clock wall, crankiness, digestive stubbornness, weird aches, dry mouth.
Normally we’re very mind-focused and the noise of an overactive mind can distract you from your body’s subtle advice. The body wants to serve, to please, to let you be yourself. It may let you drink five or six drinks now and then, but it will punish you if you drink nine or ten.
If you miss the subtler hints, it will eventually grab you by the collar and make itself understood. I didn’t uphold my end of the deal. I didn’t take care of my body, and was punished.
So for the last two days my body gave me a vicious sore throat. Swallowing was painful. It gave me headaches, nausea and shivers. Suffering in the fetal position is always a humbling experience. It leaves no doubt who’s boss.
It was hard to mount the intention to write, to clean up, to prepare for work tomorrow. I am writing this through fading nausea and Neo-Citron dullness. Everything gets put on hold when the body is fed up.
The body is well aware of its own executive position. It’s the boss but it’s usually a pretty cool boss. It offers many freedoms, for you to use as you please, but it is always in charge ultimately. To remind you, it will take you down at some point every day, right to the ground or some other horizontal surface. It will make you groggy and slow and you’ll lose interest in almost everything else. It will pull your consciousness from you. It will revoke the freedoms it normally lends you during the day.
It’s easy to put the body last, because it’s so forgiving and dependable. Normally, it feels like the mind is the boss. But the mind really takes orders from the body. When the body gets run down, thoughts drift into self-defense mode: resentment, victim mentality, self-absorption. The body is suppressing your higher mental qualities, to turn your attention to what is urgent.
The mind then loses its insight and wisdom, and starts grasping at creature comforts. A lot of these — more coffee, another movie on Netflix, a cigarette, a beer, a donut — don’t do the body any favors. So it ramps up the pressure until it has your attention and can deliver its unmistakable message: you are preventing me from doing my job.
The body is the absolute bottom of Maslow’s pyramid. If you don’t take care of it, it will undermine everything until you address the crisis. You won’t be able to focus on your work, you won’t be very sensitive in your relationships, dreams go on hold, and self-confidence shrinks accordingly.
Lifestyles vary a lot. Some people only have the occasional slip. They eat and sleep resonably well, stay active, and get sick once a year when they’re stressed at Christmas. Other people eat junk food all day for years on end. They become used to feeling sluggish or sick, so the body has to go a step further. It delivers its message by way of heart attack, diabetes or stroke.
Whoever you are, your body is doing a lot for you, and if you don’t pay its dues, you will be notified.