I feel a little hesitant admitting this on a public space, but here goes. I think I've become addicted to adrenaline. Adrenaline and stress. It's like I've forgotten how my body functions at baseline, or rather that the thrill of overdrive has become such an everpresent force in my life that is has overwhelmed my baseline settings and reset my body's homeostatic settings. And, like any addiction, it takes more and more to just to stay functional. Except in this case, I don't think that stress and adrenaline, in larger and larger quantities, are good to send coursing through my bloodstream on a 24/7 basis.
Sunday I moved all my stuff from my friend's apartment - where I was subletting for the summer - to my new apartment. Tuesday I got my copy of the keys and started to unpack; Wednesday was the first day of classes, and I wanted to get settled. Around 7PM, I was hit with the most overwhelming wave of exhaustion, followed by the very slightest, most dreaded tickle at the back of my throat, that tickle which always indicates that some sort of illness is on the horizon, and the same tickle which has already visited me three times in as many months since school let out.
Wha --? School hasn't even started yet and the damn H1N1 virus is attacking me for a fourth time!?!? [Or so the joke goes among my friends who know I am getting a degree in public health. Unfortunately, the joke has gotten a little thinner each time we have had to parade it out.]
Earlier the prior day I had run into a classmate and her mother in the computer labs. They had kindly hosted me for 2 nights during my New York/Philadelphia/DC travels, and I was happy to see them. After hugs and brief conversation, the mother looked at me and said, "Jessica, you should get some rest before school starts. You don't want to wear yourself out."
At the time I thought it was a very odd comment to make. True, Rachael [who I was subletting from] had gotten in that morning at 6:30AM, but we had gone to sleep just after lugging her 70 pound duffel bag up one flight of stairs. And true, I had been having difficulty sleeping ever since getting back from Maine, but that's not unusual for me. I've been insomniatic since 16, and despite periodic respite have never been able to cure myself completely of it.
But on Tuesday, when I shook my fist at that tickle and thought despairingly of the seemingly impossible to do list I had set up for myself and that I had no time for getting sick, a little nagging voice at the back of my brain reminded me that each time I have gotten ill this summer, a time that was supposed to be my R&R from the schoolyear, my subconscious has raised the slight suspicion that succumbing to illness is my body's plea for rest. It is as though I keep pushing through the limits of what my body can handle, and, charged up on adrenaline, stress, and that everpresent need to achieve and produce, plough through the daily grind while ignoring all other symptoms until there is no recourse but for the immune system to lay down the draw bridge, raise the white flag and surrender keys to the walls of the city so that the body is dragged into bed for a couple days of rest.
And then the cycle starts all over again.
Recently I have been thinking about a quote I found on Molly's blog: "Do not hurry. Do not rest." Do we really gain any time by rushing? My guess is that it is a wash because of all the blunders that occur when we act in haste, or merely a negligible advantage once you account for the toll that a harrassed frame of mind takes on our sense of well-being.
My resolution for this coming semester is just that: Do not hurry. Do not rest. It is also to find a way for stillness to coexist with the papers, exams, problem sets, and research that comes with being a grad student. Two years ago, I wanted desperately to live on a farm for a full 4 seasons to find that very stillness in my life and in the very core of my being, to fully feel the rhythms of nature and how they move with our own bodies. I never followed up on that particular dream, but the need for stillness in my life has grown greater yet. My hope is to find that stillness in the coming weeks, to find it and to successfully integrate it into my current plane of reality. My hope is that the stillness will replace the stress and the adrenaline.