On Monday, I started teaching again for the first time.
On Wednesday, the hospital tried to hospitalize me for low blood pressure.
On Friday, I got a cold and stopped sleeping.
On Saturday, I was accused of murder. And my body fully accepted this as normal.
Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
A police car pulls up to my house. Waits. A second car arrives. Officers get out and chat for a minute before approaching our door, warily. Toban and I are pretending not to look outside, warily.
Toban opens the door. I hear muffled voices, then my name.
“I’m Kate Bowler,” I announce loudly, stepping out onto the porch.
“Well,” says Police Officer on the Right, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this. But you have been accused of murder.”
A fly buzzes against the screen door.
I feel my brain slow into freeze frame while my body gets that loose feeling I remember from the time I once fainted after working out to Richard Simmons’ Sweat’n to the Oldies.
The fly smashes its little wings over and over into the mesh screen.
“JUST KIDDING!” blurts Police Officer on the Left.
“We have the wrong address, I think,” amends Officer Right.
“I sometimes have murderous thoughts,” I add helpfully, and Toban elbows me swiftly into silence (I am incredibly dumb under stress, as it turns out). Officers Left and Right get back into their cars as my mental and physical capacities grind back into normal gear.
The human body is a bizarre, mysterious thing. In my brief moment as a Law & Order cut scene, my brain was pushing me to calmly acclimate to the knowledge that I was about to be handcuffed, at the same time the rest of my body was deciding whether to faint or bolt for the weeds.
I used to be 99% convinced that my body was just a helpful appendage to cart my brain around. Then, in light of cancer, it was tempting to hate my body so much that I wanted to crawl right out of my skin. I wanted release from the horrible tug of war between being a person who imagines themselves one way and being a body with other ideas.
Fortunately, I’m not the only person on the Internet wrestling with brain/body disconnect. Allow me to introduce you to the comedic genius of Nick Seluk from The Awkward Yeti.
I’ve become obsessed with this comic since becoming sick (thanks Andrea for sending them my way!!). It’s the perfect, hilarious representation of how our conscious brain and our physical body are often misaligned. My stomach wants ketchup chips but my brain tells me that’s stupid. I once did a 5K run and felt mentally elated even though my legs (and mouth) declared: “I WILL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN” to the girl holding water.
My brain wants a healthy, average life but my liver grows cancerous tumors. But I’ve learned a few things from The Awkward Yeti along the way:
- My brain is not always in charge. And my brain wears glasses.
2. No one LIKES to exercise.
3. I need to simmer down on caring at little if I’m going to survive this thing.
4. I am pretty effing resilient.
5. It’s going to be okay. Or at least, a lot of TV is going to get watched.
I know the Christian tradition says that our bodies are created in the image of God—blah, blah—so let’s rely on my peep, Dr. Warren Smith, a Duke Divinity professor who knows everything. Warren told me that St. Augustine understood that the human body is a locus of disease, decay, pain, and we can never make blanket statements about the goodness and beauty of the body.
St. Augustine (who, history has not yet confirmed, was probably Canadian), writes:
All beautiful bodies express the same truth, for a body is far more beautiful in the fact that it is constituted out of parts which are all beautiful than are these parts taken individually; for the whole is perfected by the most orderly gathering of these parts (Confessions 13.28.43).
In other words, taken by individual parts, my body is the worst. Except my hair. My hair is amazing.
I am a collection of body parts that sometimes betray me and my plans. I have hands that teach, eyes that read pages of internet comics and a heart that loves a small human/dinosaur.
And apparently the face of an accused murderer.