Thursday, 22 September 2011
Listening to Our Bodies
We don't give our bodies enough credit for what they do. Think about it. Cut your hand? Clean it up, put a Band-aid on it and in a few days it's fine. Bang your knee and raise a purple bruise? Okay, it hurts for awhile, but with no effort from us, it heals itself.
And so it is with this flu or whatever bug I've had since Sunday. For the first time since then, today (Wednesday), I felt well enough to shower in the morning. I'm not recovered yet; my head is fuzzy still, aches and pains stab at me from odd places and I'm tired, very tired. But the fever is down and I am discernibly on the mend.
Isn't that amazing? I haven't done anything for the past several days except sleep and even that was at my body's, not my, insistence; when I tried to read or watch television, after a few minutes I fell asleep again. Our bodies know.
When I was thinking, in my flu fog, how wise my body is if I will just pay attention, I realized that our culture disagrees. Every magazine, website, television channel is filled with advertising for little pills. If the pill doesn't cure the problem, it covers the symptoms so we can work, work, work and forget that left to its own devices, the body takes care of many of our ailments.
But our culture thwarts that natural remedy; the only reason I can let my body do its job is that I'm am retired. When I was still working, we were expected to show up no matter how sick we were. This demonstrated our dedication to the company and also how tough we were. (You gotta be tough to be competitive and other tales from the corporate workplace.)
Of course, this also meant that we were all sick all the time. At least half the employees at my company were 30-somethings with infants and toddlers. To my dismay, they were encouraged to bring these children to work (that's a topic Crabby Old Lady could take on, but not today), these children with their runny noses, coughs and sneezes passing their little kid germs throughout our offices.
And when it wasn't the kiddies, it was their parents who came to work with the hacks, coughs and sneezes their kids had passed on to them. I had some kind of low-level infection for the entire three years I worked there. It was no surprise that it cleared up for good within a month of leaving that job.
Perhaps my mild surprise this time at how well my body is doing its job relates to all those years going to work through illnesses either because there was no paid sick leave or that to stay home was to be suspected of slacking off, of weakness.
That macho, tough-it-out requirement has been around for a long time. Back in the 1970s, the host of a morning TV show where I worked was widely praised for showing up to do the live program when she had an intestinal flu and (What a trouper! The show must go on! Etc. Etc.) kept a bucket just off-camera to puke in during commercial breaks.
From then on, it was pretty difficult for the rest of us to call in sick.
Well, you can tell I'm not recovered yet. Obviously, I've gotten off track from the short, little “aren't our bodies wonderful” point I started with. My head's still fuzzy and my body is telling me to go back to bed. Now that I can, I'm listening.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: China – Why Return?