The Body Will Deal With What the Mind Won’t

So I mentioned I contracted the flu, right after Christmas. And unfortunately for me, I then had to drive the car my parents gave me cross country (well… North to South, not cross). I told you guys all of this. Anyway, when I went to see my shrink last Wednesday, the day my divorce was finalized, I was still coughing in the morning. That night I wound up meeting a guy I know who’s also going through a divorce (and with whom I have a lot of sexual tension, but I’ve told him I just need to be friends). We drank beers, and I bummed two of his cigarettes but didn’t really inhale. No really, I’ve been doing the “just suck it into my mouth” thing since I actually bought my own packs of cigarettes (age 18-19), and so I didn’t think weed did anything for me because I… never actually inhaled it. Like Bill Clinton.

But I digress.

The next day my chest felt a little tight, and I felt really low energy, but I chalked it up to staying out late and drinking three beers. And I went to a 90 minute, intense hot power yoga class. With a live DJ, even. They wanted us to hold wheel pose for 5 minutes, and I just couldn’t. The next day my chest was hurting even more, but I again went to yoga and felt like everything was much harder than usual, like the instructor was deliberately torturing me. By Saturday I felt as though my body had been stuffed with bags of sand, and the pressure in my chest was intense. It felt like someone was pushing down on me, hard. Like anxiety, but deeper in my chest cavity.

Having not received the necessary documents from J, I had no insurance of my own yet. And actually, I was surprised to find that I’d been off his insurance since Dec 31. I was stuck- with the pain growing worse, I searched for an urgent care clinic, cancelled my evening plans, and drove to a strip mall clinic that turned out to be closed. I sat for a while in the parking lot searching for anything open and nearby, and though the Bellaire ER didn’t have any statements on their website about accepting uninsured patients, I desperately made my way over there. I was the only patient in the entire building that Saturday night.

I had to turn down an X-ray, because it was just too expensive out of pocket. Without that, the doctor guessed that I have pneumonia, or bronchitus. Or bronchial pneumonia. A jolly nurse made me pull down my pants, so she could give me a steroid shot in the butt (IN THE BUTT!!), and I was left in the examination room for a while to drink my free Keurig coffee and contemplate how I’d gotten sick AGAIN. Or never really gotten well, I suppose. From not being sick for years, I descended into a string of bad colds and other ailments around when J and I decided to divorce, and I haven’t been able to go more than 1-2 months between illnesses since then. A short time later, while I waited for my antibiotics at the 24-hour CVS, (rather than going to watch movies with B), I contemplated whether this was my body’s way of forcing me to confront an emotional pain that I otherwise compartmentalized, and only dealt with in those brief moments when my sorrow managed to get away from me, to leak from beneath its lid.

It’s Thursday, and I’m done the course of antibiotics, but my chest still aches and my limbs feel heavy so I have gone almost a week with no yoga class (SIGH). I’ve been so exhausted and ill that I’ve spent most of the week on the sofa, convalescing. If this is my body’s way of healing my “soul”, then so be it. But considering how long this particular illness has been dragging, I hope it gets everything out of me for good this time.

(On a hippie friend’s advice I bought this sub-lingual B vitamin stuff at Whole Foods. Taking it is like pounding a shot of espresso, since I don’t usually drink caffeine. But even through the manic-hyperactivity, I feel the chest pain lingering.)


I just started reading the newest book by my former advisor. I put it off as long as I could, but I need it for my dissertation. I find it unbearable to read him, so GOOD is his work. He makes me want to give up, convinced that there must be enough brilliant anthropologists in the world already. I mean, good work seems good to me in a way that I cannot access; I have trouble remembering things- names are a particularly sticky spot. Names plus their major theoretical contributions are even more difficult. I’m good at imagining. I’m good at wordcraft. But I’m not good at details, just like my mother.

I am impatient with people in my daily life who think they’re smart because they haven’t really had to test it by matching wits with the absolute smartest in our society- no, the world. I’ve actually gone on a few first dates with such people this year. Accustomed to walking around feeling smart because of the company they keep, they have no idea how tired is their logic, how thin their justifications, how stupid they really sound. And I’m NOT a jerk, I’m not. I don’t let on that I’m thinking this (maybe that’s still being a jerk?), but try to gently challenge their arrogance. I don’t have the luxury of arrogance, unless I’m self-deluded. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone manages to be arrogant in academia anymore. Maybe it’s just personality. Maybe it’s that everyone is just deeply insecure and arrogance is the default posture of some.


In his acknowledgements, my ex-advisor thanks the woman he met around the time I first met him, and who became his wife. She’s an artist/art prof. There is something about the way he thanked her that made tears well up in my eyes. I want that. I want a creatively and intellectually stimulating partnership grounded in the fiercest of love. I might have actually met that person recently… he’s a playwriting/theater professor. I dream of writing some heartbreaking homage to him, (or if not him, someone else), when my dissertation becomes a book.


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