It eventually occurred to me that I am a tad prone to treating physical as natural and that which happens between the ears as at least potentially artificial. What the body wants and does is natural, and as a Pagan I should respect that. What the brain does… I am suspicious about. Let’s sidestep the debate about whether it is actually possible for us to be unnatural, and get bogged down in the dualism a bit instead.
We can thank Descartes and those who followed after him for the whole idea of mind-body dualism. How different would our culture be if we did not usually draw lines between the two, treating them as separate, unrelated things? It is, when you get down to it, all the same body chemistry. I know this, but the habit of dualism is so ingrained in me that it affects my thinking and I don’t always spot this happening.
There are frequently conflicts between my head and my body. My nature is passionate, driven, obsessive and will run flat out and keep trying to run flat out even when my body just plain can’t. My body is unreliable to say the least – bodies often are, from observation. They get tired, hungry, sore and no matter how much will you have, if you work them flat out and do not look after their needs, bodies fall over, and sometimes cannot be persuaded to get back up again. Ignore the body and you can easily destroy it. For me, ambition and intention always outstrip capacity. It doesn’t really make any odds what my capacity is.
I’ve realised, in the last few days that my habit is to treat my body as ‘natural me’ that I should be honouring, but never take proper care of, and my more psychological and emotional aspects as some kind of unnatural control freak that needs taming. It finally dawned on me that this is bloody stupid. My emotions, will, determination, and drive are no less part of my natural self than the physical restrictions on the energy I can muster. It occurs to me that the constant tension between intention and capacity isn’t something to overcome, it is a key part of who I am. I am someone who pushes at the edges, all the time and who, as a consequence, misjudges that and falls over every now and then.
The falling over and burning out can be inconvenient for those around me. There are many who are kind and encourage me to go gently, and I appreciate the warmth and good intention there, and I do listen to the advice about how to do better. I confess that I listen with the intention of squeezing a bit more out of me at the next round. There have been a few who have found either the physical collapses or the emotional vulnerability that goes with this process, to be a nuisance and an affront, and take the time to make sure I understand what an unreasonable pain in the arse I am for not organising my life and energy to make things easy for them. Well, feckit, I get a lot done, even when you average that out over the days where I don’t get much done, the trade off is good.
There is one thing I can do for me in all of this, and I’m going to do it. I’m going to stop apologising for being the kind of person who runs flat out until they fall over and then gets up and does it all again. This is a fundamental part of who I am, a key aspect of my nature, in both body and mind. I’m always trying to learn how to manage it better, how to perfect that balance between pushing and not falling, and I get it wrong, and will keep getting it wrong. There will be days when I whimper and feel sorry for myself, but not many. I may find eventually I can’t get up again after all, but so be it. I’m going to stop fighting and resenting and apologising for things that make me who I am, and put that energy into the crazy stuff, where it belongs.