I wonder whether there is a way ….I felt today that it is actually possible to feel -besides just knowing- which nervous system supplies us at any given moment. If we are tuned into our body and listen to what it has to say to us. I wondered consequently whether there is also a way to move on from feeling and understanding to actually manipulating or changing this condition. I felt my stomach going tight when I went in the kitchen in the evening to cook something. I was moving frantically around, desperate for the movement, my body a bit numb from sitting on my arse-ana all day long and hungry for anything. I ended up gulping down food while cooking my main meal. I felt my stomach tightening more and more with every mouthful, felt my oesophagus constricting so as not to put any food in it. And I checked my emotions: I was stressed. I felt pushed. All day’s inertia blew to sudden and uncontrolled activity while I was still functioning on my flight or fight mode (although no wild animal was chasing me) and here I was mindlessly shoving food down my throat. I stopped. I breathed in slowly and tried to locate this nervous system of mine and ask it to switch to another mode of function. I told myself to relax and I hoped that my nervous system would follow. I decided then to walk out all this nervous-ness and hoped that this would set a straight stomach for the job. Of eating.
Ever since I was diagnosed with acid reflux, my relationship and my interest in food has taken another shape. And I’m saying this, because in my life, it has taken all sorts of shapes. Always a big foodie, I had periods where I would just eat and eat and eat to the point I couldn’t walk off my chair, others when I would avoid it almost completely and just survive on cucumber with vinegar (how did I manage?), a short one -from another lifetime it seems- where it would be the part of a cycle in which the other chain was weed (I once ate all my flat-mate’s buns; she woke up to find none was left from my after midnight raid in her cupboard. Can’t remember if I wrote a "sorry-I-ate-all-your-buns-but-I’ll-buy-you-new-ones" note to redeem my munchies-ridden greed), a period where it would substitute the passion to bring me and my lover together over a pizza and now when it is both my medicine and my poison.
I have to choose carefully. These days even the sight of wrong –unsuitable for me that is- food can send me acid refluxing. I have bad days and good days. But I understand the battle between mind and organ so much better now; better than when I had quit meat, better than when, while on a diet, I would smell the lovely cooked food before eating a salad. My stomach knows what it wants and what it doesn’t. My mind on the other hand knows as well, but since it is not the main receiver of the discomfort, can choose to forget and to ignore. Can choose to put the harmony of the whole at stake for the gratification of the selfish desire.
So, maybe it is not just about cultivating this magic power of switching one mode of nervous system for another, but is more about learning to manipulate this amazing friend and this terrible foe we keep caged up in our head. How can we make the brain like all the other organs? In that, it too, will not only work towards its own pleasure but for the benefit of everyone else? Does it feel superior indeed, all alone, at the top of its realm -our body- only abstractly connected with the rest of the inhabitants, its subjects? Has it become an ill advised and foul tempered ruler our brain? How can we make it work for its people again? How can we make it our friend?
I haven’t got the answers to these questions. I know however that the tools to accomplish this exist; and if they don’t, we can create them. No matter how superior or separate the brain seems, still it is intertwined with us. And we are not just it. We should never underestimate the organs’ intelligence and individual perception. And we should remember that they too are us.