|For These Times||
"No pain no gain" or "it's mind over matter" we've all heard before. For a time you force the body to conform through discipline, attitude, vision and will. But eventually pain is pain not gain and matter conquers the mind, not the reverse. Not listening to the body, taking it for granted becomes a mistake. If my health is ok, I'm ok. It it's not, I'm in trouble. No more grinning and bearing the pain. You end up paying for this. The body's needs are a priority, and I have to work around this, not the other way around.
As one ages, the body reverses our thinking. When we are young the needs of the body dominate. As a baby, when you're hungry you cry, when you have to go to the bathroom, you just do it, hence, diapers. Later, into midlife and more, we are taught control over the body, with delayed gratification, and discipline. The mind takes over, and we think we can will ourselves around, over and above various situations. In the final stage of life, once again, to our surprise, things are reversed and it's matter over mind.
Injuries, illnesses, energy, time, and our mental and emotional needs dictate more than we would like to admit. You can't bend those knees on the tennis court if asthma kept you up the night before, or for that matter walk those three miles in the morning with even just a hairline fracture in your toe. Our body and needs once again humble us.
Once in while give it credit
Years ago I did some paperhanging contracting to support myself. It was not a good time for my art. It was hard and demanding work day in day out. If you weren't busy you worried and if you were busy you were too busy. One contractor, who hired me for a picky well to do man in Fort Lee who owned a restaurant in Manhattan said to me when we were driving home in the snow on a trafficked highway, 'this is brutal' and I concurred. Later, when finished a touch of glue showed on the delicate fabric that I hung and that was it for me.
One time I had a job doing a model house in New Jersey for a developer and the pressure to finish was terrific and the conditions were horrific. I was doing a bathroom that had 11 ft high walls, partially covered by mirrors. Usually paper was the last thing to be added, but here the plumbing wasn't finished nor the sinks put in and even some electricals were not done. Help was not to be found and it would cut into my profits. So I hung by myself, on two boards hooked on two ladder rungs, above a lot of sharp edges. I was no kid at the time, and although a craftsman, had not been doing it that long.
The project manager liked me, which was good for a time until he invited me to hang his son's bedroom where he picked out the paper. His wife liked me too and asked my opinion on the paper her husband had picked. Now the wife said the husband did not spend enough time with the children and this was his attempt to make up for it, by putting up wallpaper in the son's room. I told here what I thought, the paper was too dark and scary and spooky. The wife spoke to me easily, much more easily than to him.
Well, that was a mistake. He let me go and I felt I kind of betrayed him. Maybe he was partially right, but, you know, we all need to feel important and valued and I went with it, albeit maybe too much. All we did was talk. Still, I was not detached enough and was no 'cool hand Luke.'
Anyhow, the stress was getting to me and I remember while hanging in that bathroom my heart felt as if it was bouncing out of my rib cage and I was worried. After the job was finished I went to my favorite health food store and I told the owner's son what I had experienced. His advise was so helpful. He said 'if your heart acts up again just pat it, rub it, and calm it down.' I'm not sure if this was from him or someone else or from something I read, but one should also speak to the troubled body part and tell it you're sorry for stressing it. In other words show it some care and acknowledge its importance as a living organism in your body.
My approach to my body changed as I felt sympathy for it at times. What I had put the poor thing through. It was a vessel I was given and it should be valued and cared for. True, sometimes one has to be tough and harden but that has gone too far, too far. Appreciation was what was needed.
Overtime the pastes used often covered my arms and the fumes were inhaled and my weight went down and I had to take an asthma medicine in order to sleep and it was time to leave. A black contractor who liked me saw my plight and treated me to a trip to Hawaii for two weeks, one of the only times that ever happened to me
Afterward, I walked away from it. It had promise but turned out not to be a future but instead put some money in my pocket and that was what I had to show.
To this day I remember the good advise from the health store manager and I follow it. My mind and will have put my body through much and instead of treating it like a workhorse I try to relate to it gently and with concern and understand what it goes through. It's like having a relationship. You have to work with it and not just use it.
On getting to sleep
Spoke to my ex on sleeping and falling asleep which is not always easy today because the mind doesn't stop. I'm not naturally a good sleeper but lately I'm doing okay. M mentioned even old episodes of law and order are effective when kept on softly. They somewhat go on and on and fill some need for safety so the mind can let go.
I haven't been watching TV lately, or very rarely. On principle I don't want what years I have left filled with their agenda, and contrite plots, or almost anything they have to say or do. Plus it is programmed to make us all feel inadequate. Actors making obscene amounts of money performing in meaningless episodes that cater to cliché after cliché. Also, because they are able to afford what they want, and take care of themselves and work out and train, their narcissism reeks through whatever roles they play. In other words, look at me, I am beautiful, rich, ripped and can even be sensitive on cue. Who needs that after facing all the day to day difficulties?
But there is an irony here. I found that when TV was out of my life, I could spend more time with real people and was more patient. As time went on dramas would increase and I thought I was doing mitzvahs by listening, which is true. However, the plots thicken and become involved and one is drawn into others lifes and your own life starts to lose some focus. People are really tested these days and can become vulnerable very quickly. All it takes is for one or two things to go wrong. But they are real people leading real lifes, not scripted at some film graduate school designed to sell cars. However, there is a drawback to this reality. You can't just turn it off or change the channel. If you become too entwined you can get in trouble. M and I talked about this and we both agreed the TV might be safer.
So TV can be acceptable but is not the 'highest solution.' A soft voice on the radio can do the trick. Sometimes on good classical stations the hosts have these melodic voices. Although a good classical radio station is hard to find. Classical music is okay, but depends on lows and highs and emotions and relief and that is not exactly calming. Opera the same. Sometimes background movie music is skillful and surprisingly flowing but still can kick up the pace just when you are fading off. It's movie dependent which means you're falling asleep to a plot.
New age music was effective for a while but then I felt manipulation. I was being preached to with musical notes. Steve Halpern, a Phd in this genre, produced music that calmed the nerves a few times but eventually interfered with my natural rhythms. Laraaji, playing his string instrument, also intrigued, but his stream of consciousness music was a bit too self indulgent and my brain rebelled. How about ocean sounds? Haven't tried them. My fan when loud is effective but it doesn’t quite coax enough. Some variation and subtlety is needed. Is there an Orthodox Jewish solution to this?
Is there such a thing as birds chirping the Hebrew alphabet? Forgive me for that.
Lately however I do have a solution. East Indian sitar music from the Pandora 'app' I have kept on all day at various volumes. It seems to keep life going, has some grit to it as it moves from one place to another in a spontaneous but controlled way. You can trust the current. No unseen waterfall is ahead. There is enough discipline and craft to keep it in check and trustworthy. The emotions aren't played upon nor is it preachy. It is rough and smooth, and tires you out a little, enough to send you off in another direction, towards sleep. And, as said, it is good background music for the day. So, for a time, this is filling a certain gap.
On the grand scale of important issues, this appears to not be on the higher end, but attention to details can make the 'whole' work.
How does it know?
The body is an amazing thing. The last few days in South Florida something has been in the air. I felt it at the beginning of last week and recently this was confirmed by Scot at the Vitamin shop. He said he felt sinus pressure also two nights ago.
Well, last night my left eye was burning and tearing. I know it's one way for the body to rid itself of irritants. When I went to bed I shut my eyes and the tears stopped and I slept. Waking up in the morning I saw some puffiness beneath the eye, a build up of fluid with no place to go. Once up and the eyelid opened, the eye began to tear again for a couple of hours.
So how did the body know? When the eye was shut, it stopped tearing and just collected the fluid in the pocket beneath, allowing me to sleep. When I awoke the eye opened and some signal must have been switched on and the tears resumed and the swelling decreased. It's like a little machine, changing direction and course of action. How does it know all these things? Amazing.
I had a neighbor who walked quite a lot. She wasn't young but able to do so. I joined in for a number of years and would walk about 3 miles a day. On other days I would bike or swim. Exercise is good but too much of anything is not. Unfortunately many of us don't know our limits. Maybe ego is involved. Yet we try and do the right thing. I had some warnings as my knees started to hurt. I avoided distance walking and began 20 minutes of walking sprints. Seemed to work for a time.
Then my hip started bothering me, to the point where it hurt to tie my shoelace. The owner of the vitamin store I go to had hip replacement from too much football as a youth. He told me what I had was the beginning. Too much biking, wear and tear. Later he eased his stand on that. Funny how so many of us who tried to do the right thing found the right thing turned and bit us. Anyhow, the cause could be overuse as mentioned, or could be from an inflammation, the latest phrase describing bacteria gathering at a weak link in the body. They get into your bones so to speak. Maybe it even related to bacteria from infections in root canals although hard to prove. In any event I've adjusted to being conscious of doing exercise in a smaller way.
My first observation is that we spend a lot of time on the computers. As such, it's good to get up often, say every fifteen minutes and do something else. Paperwork, picking up a piece of paper, washing dishes, organizing stacks, household maintenance, all require varied movements of the body. They don't ground and pound with one repeated motion the way walking or biking does. Each household chore is unique, slightly varies and uses slightly different muscles. So my new way of looking at getting things done around the house, even cerebral things, can be a form of exercise. Projects mean going back and forth, picking something up at point A and bringing them to point B. All of the motions use muscles and ligaments and reflexes. In other words, keeping your life going is the workout, and the home can be the gym. One is not always conscious in this way, but it does creep in.
I still go out and walk or bike, but its not a 'have to.' In addition, exercise can tire you out and your energies aren't going into getting your stuff done. So this is just another angle, another perspective on using your body in a smaller way but a good way. Nothing is the answer in and of itself, but little tips and observations do help out.
Two types of people
A long time ago I think I recall hearing someone say “There are two kinds of people. Those who sleep well and those who don't.” I think it was my friend John who was observing his wife enviously. Even though on medication, and moody, and inconsistent, her strong German Midwest constitution endured whatever abuse that came her way or was self-administered. I'm not sure if it's true, but it does seem as if people who sleep well have a certain durability that people who don't, don't. They seem able to turn everything off. I remember a story of my dad in the Navy who, when on guard duty, fell asleep standing.
Anyhow, I’m a person who isn't a good sleeper although lately I have been. Maybe the reason is that my allergies, stirred up by the rising pollen count, are bad enough to tire me out but not bad enough to keep me up.
Some things I've done lately have helped and I thought I'd share them. I heard a lady on the radio who has cancer and in certain arenas is conservative, but is also open to natural remedies. She mentioned every night she played tapes by the New Age musician Steven Halpern, which put her to sleep quickly. I once had met Mr. Halpern in New York at someone's apartment before he moved to California. During our brief conversation he had mentioned he had been a vegan for 7 years but had to switch to meat.
Halpern, the quintessential New Age musician, had been a jazz player and then became interested in yoga and the chakras and the sounds and tones that related to each of them, eventually getting a Phd in musicology. On Pandora, a computer program, or app, I tried listening to some of his sounds and although intellectually dubious I was surprised to see how relaxing they were. The music didn't seem to take from you nor have you anticipate what was next. Instead it was just there. Some of his recordings were less successful but as said, some recordings replaced the restless silence with calm and sleep came my way.
Because my allergies sometimes act up, I sometimes sleep on a patio chair with a raised back. When doing so my head is pointed to the West. Lately, I've slept on the couch which is softer and where my head rests towards the North. Years ago I learned I think from Feng Shui, the Japanese art of furniture placement, that energy passes properly through the body when sleeping this way. The North pole pulls energy up through the head and the energy from the South pole enters through the feet. At least this is what I remember and the alignment seemed to help me sleep.
Finally, if these solutions don't work a grade B Sci Fi flick might be so silly you fall asleep out of boredom. In this vein, I'm sure many of you have other subtle tricks.
So, as said, half of the human race has trouble sleeping so I thought I'd share a few ideas.
Sleep well and if not, be patient.
Some of you might have seen this on the computer. A 116 year old woman, when asked what advise she would give to live a long life, said "Get plenty of sleep, eat well, take naps when you are tired and learn to relax." Good words from a 116 year old.
Ok, you might be 24/7 on making the money, or have to throw yourself in front of a bus to save a child, or are worried all the time about real worries, or give all your days and energy to an idea and seeing it through. Maybe you were set up to be a sacrifice, and sacrifice yourself for the wrong cause. Perhaps you are called to risk it all on a dare, or face a moment of truth that risks your life. You might be up all night refining unsuccessfully that poetic phrase, or worry all night that you should be. True, there are other ways to live and end this life. I recall the saying 'only the good die young.'
Still, in the back of our minds, this lady's words should have a place. We can see the truth of where she has arrived and admire the simplicity even if we are not there. Somehow, sometime, these words fit whether we are called to follow them or not.
Talk with Freddie
Where I live I speak occasionally to Freddie, a landscaper originally from Puerto Rico. His wife was some of kind nurse, German and she seemed to rule the roost. She also had chronic allergies as I do. After two days of difficulty recently, I ran into Freddie and asked about his wife. He said her allergies are chronic. I said I take care of myself but it’s still there. He said it’s the same for her.
Then he added he’s not afflicted. The reason, he thought, was that he was brought up playing in the dirt with pigs and chickens. He pointed to the mold on the trees and the sidewalk and said it’s all around us. I said I grew up in the city, surrounded by concrete. There was no exposure to dirt.
Freddie could be right. By not being around dirt and mold your system doesn’t develop proper defenses. I always have been attracted to gardening but haven’t been able to pursue it. Perhaps that’s a missing component here, interacting with dirt and microorganisms and plants. The body would absorb a small portion of it and maybe not overreact as much. Interesting thinking.
Steven B. Nussdorf records his lifelong search to find meaning outside of the normal channels. He uses writing, poetry, and drawing to document this effort.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.