Physical Idiot

Gabrielle carrying the world on her back

In the intellectual and emotional intelligence stakes, I consider myself to be reasonably well equipped.  In the physical intelligence department, I am a dullard, an ignoramus, a Physical Idiot.

Firstly, I have never been good at any sport.  My eye-hand coordination is poor and my general body control is just as unimpressive.  I remember being sixteen years old in the gym class: we were filmed doing a movement routine and when the film was played back (no videos in those days) and I appeared on the screen, the whole class went into hysterics - including me!  How ungainly, how unbalanced, how un-coordinated!  

Secondly - and much worse - for years now my body has had to scream at me before I have taken any notice.  I can rationalise this by going back to my babyhood and the horrendous pain I experienced for months then.  I had five years in my childhood between the ages of seven and twelve when I can truly say that I was free of pain.  Then, good old puberty kicked in and I started my forty year span of menstrual migraines. Great!

As a result, I have developed some very bad habits over the years.  I have naturally associated 'being in my body' with a very painful place to be so I have avoided it as much as is humanly possible by retreating in what I would call my mental space (as opposed to my physical space).  This may sound very guru-like but it is in fact bad news indeed.  This is the sort of routines that became part of my daily life:

  • I need to go to the toilet:  "Sorry body but this is inconvenient: I have better things to do than empty my bladder or move my bowels.  You're just going to have to keep holding onto your toxic waste until such time as I decide to let go"
  • I am thirsty:  "Sorry body but I really want to finish this work so you're just going to have to put up with cellular dehydration for a few hours"
  • I am tired:  "Sorry body but I am far too busy to rest so you're jut going to have to keep going way past your energy limit until I have no choice but to stop"
  • I am not breathing properly:  "Sorry body but you're just going to have to function on reduced oxygen whether you like it or not"
  • I hurt: "Sorry body, what are you saying? I can't hear you..... and I'll continue to turn deaf on you until you learn that the only way to make me listen is to scream at me like a banshee".  So, screaming is something my body has become very good at and pain only gets more severe as a result.

What on earth was I thinking?  Actually, I was thinking plenty BUT I was not feeling.

Women have a tendency to go past pain because, whereas a healthy man may never experience pain (unless he chooses to play rugby :0), even a very healthy woman will experience pain on a monthly basis.  As menstrual cramps can be only two notches down from labour pains, this is not a trivial physical experience.  So we go on, in truth because at a certain level, we have to.  This may be an explanation but it is never an excuse for ill-treating your body.

"I need to be more in my body' - I understood the words but I had no idea what it meant in action terms.  What do I need to do?  How do you do that?  I knew about breath-control techniques but they never seemed to be as beneficial as other people told me they were.

So I went back to basics - I look upon it as a form of puppy training!

  • I answer my body needs as immediately as I can:  toilet signal?-  immediate toilet action.  Thirsty? - immediate bottle of water.  Tired - immediate stop.  Shallow breathing? - just let my breathing get back gently to normal (I find it is more powerful for me than controlling my breath - I control enough as it is :0)
  • I feel pain:  I respond to the signal straight away by acknowledging it.  Sometimes that's just enough to melt it away.  If it isn't, I take pain-killers - simple as that. Enough waiting for the pain to build up to screaming point before I seek chemical assistance (makes me sound like a drug addict!).
  • I connect to various parts of my body on a daily basis:  I purposefully feel my feet, my hands, my back, my calves, whatever else.  By doing this instinctively, I have discovered that my energy lives in my feet - not in my chest as I always thought. Strange as it may seem, my feet give me very useful energy-level signals, and I now listen to them.

I may be learning to trust my body but I know my body doesn't yet trust me. After years of knackering abuse and neglect, who could blame it? It will take more than a few weeks of respectful treatment on my part to redress the balance and that's OK. I am happy to invest the necessary time. I can't think of a better thing to be doing.

Last week, I heard someone on the radio say " In the brain, there is intelligence - in the body, there is wisdom".  You'd better believe it :0)

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