For the past ten days Los Angeles has been beset by triple digit heat. Going outside felt like walking into an oven or like being punctured by thousands of hot needles, one in every skin pore. Having a body was burdensome.
My cat wisely slept through it. But in the beginning I tried to resist, tried to “get things done.” I drank gallons of electrolytes. My perceptions were narrowed—all I could perceive was the next hot moment. I pushed through my domestic routines with the least possible movement of my body—shuffling feet, collapsed midline, limp arms, dull mind. Dull spirit—prey to every negative thought in my collection. After a few days this approach took too much effort. Instead I became a slug—without incentive, self-discipline, will or enthusiasm. And with little compassion for the many troubles of the world. I disappeared into Netflix, oblivious to the spaces outside my body.
Today the heat has broken and I’ve recovered enough life force to Google “cooling yoga poses.” They’re right there on the internet, of course, so next time (there's bound to be a next time) I’ll have that resource. I've never before been so depleted by heat, and there have been many such waves in Los Angeles. But I'm older now, a bona fide senior citizen, the kind who are at risk during hot weather. Perhaps my resistance to the heat was also resistance to that larger reality.
My heatwave micro-trauma was short-lived and there is no aftermath—my broken household does not litter a curbside in Houston. I’m tempted to berate myself for my weakness, for precious “lost” hours watching movies. For shuffling when I “should” have tried to find resilience.
But I’m not the Energizer Bunny, much as I envy his everlasting good cheer. Slowly I return to normal, to writing and meditation, to seeing clients, answering emails, planning future events. I'm grateful to feel the cooler air on my skin, to let its touch remind me of my peripersonal space. Glad to recover a panoramic view of the world and my place in it.
To being present in my body again—what a gift that is. Any trauma, no matter how small, causes us to dis-inhabit some portion of our bodies, if not to entirely abandon them. We're retained this primal survival strategy because, in certain cases, it truly does enable us to survive. How privileged we are, when the trauma is short-lived and mild, to return to sentience.
© 2017 Mary Bond