Sunday, August 3, 2008


A few years ago I woke up one morning to find that I couldn't move my right arm properly. Or, rather, I could move it but it hurt like a bitch when I did so. Not, I can tell you right now, the best surprise I've ever woken up to. The cause of the injury was a mystery but the problem, it later transpired, was a rotator cuff injury - exactly as much fun as it sounds.

Unfortunately this unwanted (and undeserved, damnit) malady has since returned with disturbing regularity - including a surprise visit this past week or so. This, naturally, is a pain in every sense of the word but the interesting part is not so much trying to figure out how to do up a bra one handed (tip: don't) but watching how my body copes with the injury.

Because the weird thing is, I could swear my body has a mind of its own. As strange as it sounds I can feel the rest of my body compensating for my pathetic excuse of a right arm constantly in order to minimise the pain: my left arm automatically reaching out to do tasks it has never dared to do before and my behaviour changing to allow it to do so. And this is with zero effort on my part.

So, naturally, it got me thinking about just how clever our bodies can be sometimes in helping us to avoid pain and - more importantly - how much better it would be if they could apply this kind of cunning to everything else.

Emotional pain, for a start. I mean, when you enter into a new relationship, for instance, it's pretty likely to end in heartbreak. This is not me being maudlin - this is merely statistics. The odds, I'm afraid, are not good.

So how much better if our bodies could sense such things and Throw Us a Flipping Bone. Have your legs rendered useless and yourself unable to leave the house, perhaps, if you start to fall in love with the wrong person. Only after several weeks of bed-bound reflection when you decide that, No, Billy Ray is actually bad news will your legs take pity on you and allow you to get up and get on with it. So much as think about going after your friend's ex-boyfriend and you'll find your hand writing 'Just Don't - thank me later' on the mirror in lipstick one morning.

Of course, as soon as you start to take this idea further things - as so-and-so-said - fall apart and the centre cannot hold. Childbirth, for instance, is supposedly not the dreamiest way to spend 12 hours. So why go through it at all? Why not have your womb rendered a cold inhospitable place where nothing can grab a toehold to circumvent the pain altogether? That may sound pretty good to me but not, surely, to everyone else.

Similarly, exercise can be the source of much pain - aching muscles, tired feet etc. So why should our bodies allow us to get on with it at all? Is it not much kinder to allow ourselves to recline on the couch, growing more and more voluminous with each passing day as Jean Paul wedges another cream bun into our collective gullet? Or is the pain of having our organs ultimately crushed by a thick layer of fat, our lungs struggling to breath and our jowls sagging southward greater than the initial pain of sore limbs?

Is emotional pain worse than physical pain or is it the way around? How does our body decide? Did the Divinyls have it right when they said it's a fine line between pleasure and pain? And, in a related question, have I maybe gone a bit gung ho on the pain killers this morning?


Dave said...

If you're relying on your body to tell you not to fall for a guy named Billy Ray, you're beyond help in my books. And yes Kate, too many painkillers, even for you.

my name is kate said...

Touche Johnsy. But even rednecks with mullets need love. Probably.

Lindsay said...

sometimes waiting for the axe to fall is the most delicious agony.

observer said...

I agree with you on the falling for the wrong guy part. What's the deal with that? In the same way that there's never any cute boys around when you're single, but as soon as you're in a relationship, there they all are.

(PS I don't think I've used the phrase "cute boys" for 10 years. See the things you bring out in me Kateo?)

my name is kate said...

Hey I don't think "cute boys" needs to be retired until you're old enough to have given birth to cute boys. Only then does it start to sound a leeeetle creepy...

Bolton said...

Um, what makes you think your body doesn't have a mind of its own?