It always surprises me how much my body knows.
About a week ago, after Matt and I spent the day cleaning the apartment, I had an allergy attack that had everyone thinking I was sick. I was wheezy and congested and sounded for all the world like I had a bad cold.
It was only dust though. There’s a feeling that goes with being sick, not just a weakness but a special kind of fatigue that leaves me feeling much worse than symptoms alone. That came a couple days later. You might assume that I was actually sick in the first place and it didn’t hit hard until a few days later, but I have a different theory. I think my allergies wore out my immune system so badly that when the next virus knocked on the door it was welcomed in with exhausted white blood cells. It’s not that my congestion got much worse, it stayed about the same, but I knew I was sick because all of the sudden, I felt sick.
Likewise, about three days later, I knew I was getting better. I was no less tired but it was a different quality of exhaustion, cleaner. It’s so instinctive that I was washing my sheets velveteen rabbit style (hey at least I didn’t burn them) before I really knew what I was doing.
This sort of instinctive knowledge is stunning. I couldn’t explain to a doctor how I know the difference, though I’ve tried, but it’s a certain and unquestionable knowledge.
We know when there’s something wrong.
Not always mind you, I realize some things manage to sneak their way into our bodies without our noticing, and by the time we know something’s wrong it’s far too late to do anything. Cancer has a particular knack for this. But with the day to day dangers our body is in many ways more intelligent than our factual knowledge, quick to learn, automatic in response. Oh for such reflexes in fencing.
Pain is just as intriguing. I do not bruise easily, but after a day of fencing I’ll come back with blue and green polka dots all over my right arm and leg. When I look back at the day I might remember the occasional too-hard hit, those are the ones that make red welts raised and glowing on my skin. The polka dot bruises though, remain a mystery, my body is now so used to them that while they’re clearly hard enough to cause at least minor injury, I do not even feel the pain.
Some of that, I know, is adrenaline, but I think some of it must be acclimation. I was at the doctor a few weeks ago, worried about a mass in my breast. It was only bruise tissue. I’d been hit hard enough, or often enough, that I had a thick line of deep bruising all the way across my right breast, but I had no memory of anything painful enough to do that much damage.
I think this is related to my sleeping habits. Matt has to be at work by 8:30, but I don’t have a job, so while I’m trying to gradually get into the habit of getting up and having breakfast with him, right now I sleep. When I first started sleeping next to Matt I was affronted at how alarming his alarm clock was to wake up to. It’s not just a beep-beep, it’s a whole series of bells and whistles and the first few times it went off I sat bolt upright in bed, heart racing.
Now I don’t even hear it. Ninety-nine percent of the time I sleep right through Matt’s alarm, the same alarm which used to raise my blood pressure daily. My body, or my unconscious, or something in me that I would not normally consider logical or sentient, knows that the alarm has nothing to do with me.
That in itself is not really all that amazing I guess. It’s the exceptions that I find surprising. The alarm clock doesn’t wake me up, but five seconds before Matt leans over me to kiss me goodbye in the morning, I’m awake, ready to tell him I love him.
Possibly even more surprising? Sometimes I do have to get up early with Matt, and we use the same alarm. And the same alarm that I sleep through every morning wakes me up immediately every time it needs to. Every time.