Forty Days Returning, Day 3–Our Bodies, Ourselves

I was reviewing which previous post I was going to use for today’s post. This is not some random process where I simply select a given post from my 200+ entries. I use a random number generator and have it pick a number between one and 40. It gives me the number, then I read through the posts associated with that number. I then picked the one that’s most connected to how I’m feeling or that seems to resonate with me for that particular day. Today’s number just happened to be the number nine, and that helped me pick out today’s quite appropriate post that is focused on the body.

Before I share this post, I must confess that I am particularly focused on the body today because I am about to undergo surgery on my right hand. My right hand is my dominant hand and so I have been typing with my left hand. Thus I am more focused on the body then I have been in a long time. It’s a good reminder to me not to take for granted the fact that I am temporarily able bodied. I will be temporarily inconvenienced in not being able to use my right hand, but I am reasonably sure that it is temporary. There those for whom not having the use of a particular part of their body is the norm. It is with this keen awareness that I invite you to read, “The Body Electric,” a post from February 2015.

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From Forty Days, Day 9, “The Body Electric”

One cannot talk about the 40 days, these particular days, without talking about the body. So much of what is reflected upon, commemorated, grieved, and celebrated during these days deals with literal, metaphorical, historical, symbolic  connections to the body. I have thought and written about the body in various ways over time, from the miraculous, wonderfully intricate complexity of the human body–the millions of chemical, biological, physical, electrical reactions, pulses, impulses, divisions, mutations, function, dysfunction, malfunctions, regenerations, regrowth, healings and so many micro and macro activities that are too many and too rapid to even comprehend let alone track and monitor.

The body is a remarkable creation, but that is not the aspect I want to focus on. For although the body is remarkable, it is also so amazingly fragile and vulnerable. The other day I was pondering the expression, “sweating bullets.” As is my wont, I went to the Google to look up the origins of the phrase. I didn’t come up with a satisfactory answer, but the expression also reminded me of the passage that described the very human Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane. He was described as sweating great drops as of blood so great was the anxiety and stress he was under in the hours before he was to be arrested and ultimately killed.

Have you ever been in such a state that you felt as if you could sweat great drops of blood? I can remember a few times in my life when I was filled with such anxiety, dread, fear, grief, or other deep emotions that all I could do was hug my knees to my chest and rock back and forth, praying. It was completely wordless–my mind was past useful comprehension or thought. All I could do was rock and pray, “God please, please, help me. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Please help me.” My physical state reflected the mental and emotional strain I was feeling.

Some days, during a particularly difficult few months, I would wake in what I would come to call my “highly adrenalized” state: a feeling of liquid anxiety that burned in my chest (where some folks would call the heart chakra) and radiated out through my my upper arms and sometimes all the way down into my belly. It was a reflection of the intensity of my emotions and anxiety during that time. During my waking hours I could manage it well enough using various meditation techniques, breathing into it and relaxing. But during my unconscious sleep time, I had no such protection.  Instead of trying to fight against the adrenaline, running the risk of dumping even more into my system,  I accepted the feeling, knowing why it was there, and allowing whatever I was feeling to arise in that moment. I also took time to  thank my body for its “flight or fight” response to danger, but reassuring it that I was safe, all the while breathing, soothing myself, and assuring my frightened, freaked out self that all was well. It didn’t always work, but many days it did.

And so as I reflect on these 40 days, the necessity of thinking about the body becomes poignantly clear. As I think about my lonely, frightened hours rocking myself, trying to calm my body’s response to my own personal Gethsemane, I empathize with what Jesus was experiencing, what any human goes through when they know they are about to endure a significant trial. We pray, we cry, we sweat great drops of blood, but at the end of all that anxiety, there often comes a degree of calm resignation. We are not by any means peaceful, but the intensity has calmed and we walk forward into some form of the inevitability that awaits us. There is a certain assurance that this too shall pass, and so we wait and walk through our own 40 days. And so it goes.

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