What do missing my train and getting to know my body better have in common? Well, I don’t want to hear your answer, actually..
On 20-Aug-2012 I was supposed to depart Chiang Mai for Bang Mun Nak to spend a week off the grid at a Buddhist Temple my Czech friend stayed at.
The train departed at 5:45am, so I set my alarm for 4:30am. I set it twice, actually, just to make sure.
I woke up that morning without my alarm feeling more rested than expected. I wear an eye mask and ear plugs because I’m a sensitive sleeper and because it creates an environment/routine in an otherwise chaotic life of sleeping in different beds all the time.
Despite the eye mask, I could tell that the room wasn’t completely dark. So in an instant, I knew I missed my train. I looked at my watch and it was 7:15am. (As I would later find out, maybe I still could have caught my train if it was as late as it was the following day when I did wake up to catch the train!)
This is not normal.
I can count on one hand the number of times in my life I’ve slept through my alarm (though I should tell the story of sleeping through my alarm in Malaysia..). I pride myself on respecting time and almost never being late.
Well, I moved the mask, stretched, and smiled. I’m not sure why, but I did.
Of course, I wanted to be on my way to the temple as planned, but I also realized that somehow I had turned off my alarm and went back to sleep without remembering. Again, that’s very, very strange for me.
And the other part of the story is my body. Throughout the trip I’ve listened to my gut much more than in my pre-trip life. I have also gotten sick much more frequently than in my previous life. In fact, though I’m a guy, I most definitely have a monthly period. It’s a bit irregular, but I get a case of diarrhea or a nasty cold (or both) monthly if not more frequently than that.
In Colombia I learned the best medicine for being sick is rest, and I applied that medicine in places like Peru and Singapore. In missing the train, my body told me it needed to rest. And I’m glad it worked out that way.
By the end of the day, my diarrhea had gone away, but the morning wasn’t pleasant and would have made the train journey very uncomfortable.
Listening To My Body
As I mentioned, I have a monthly period now. And, much like many girls, I get symptoms before it arrives. I’ll feel normal and then over the course of an hour or two it’ll feel like I have completely hit a wall, like I’m as tired as can be for absolutely no reason.
When this happens, I know I’ll have problems later that day if it happens early in the afternoon, or the following morning if I feel this way in the evening.
It’s like my body tells me “Hey, I’m doing my best to fight off whatever is going to make you feel horrible later. I’m going to make you feel really tired so you rest so that I can call in the reinforcements to do battle with Bacteria ABC and Amoebas XYZ. Chill out and may the porcelain gods be with you.”
I’m sure that voice has always been within me, but I never paid attention to it. I never used to rest when I got sick, proudly missing zero days of college three out of four days (and only missing two days in my senior year) and exactly the same in high school, perfect attendance all but one year when I missed two days of school.
It’s great that I have a ton of willpower, but I’ve learned that getting sick is a normal part of life. I happen to be getting sick more often as I encounter new disease environments, new foods, and new people as well as putting more stress and tiredness on my body than it would get in a “normal” life. But sickness is a natural part of life and I feel more in touch with my body and what it needs.
So, in a roundabout way, I think that’s why I smiled instantly. In the Corporate Tool To Nomadic Idealist series I talked about how reading Eat, Pray, Love had a big impact on me. One of the biggest things I remember from that book is the Indonesian wise man talking about how his liver would smile.
Smiling that morning was illogical as I lost a day at the temple and I lost money since I had already booked the ticket and I’d need to spend another night in my hostel. But in my freshly-wakened, more conscious state, I think my face just conveyed how my liver felt.