The Body Knows

In the same way that animals instantly know when a tsunami or other natural disaster is about to happen, and begin fleeing the soon-to-be killing zone, our bodies know many things before we are aware of them.

Years ago I watched my father bully his granddaughter, my niece.   She was about five, it was the evening before her birthday and my father asked her where she wanted to eat the next day to celebrate.  She told him and he shook his head.  No way.   When she tried to argue a case she shouldn’t have needed to argue, her grandfather cut her off with a smiling “you show me a girl who insists on going to Shells and I’ll show you a girl who doesn’t get the bike her grandparents bought for her.”  This bike, by the way, a sparkly little purple number with training wheels and girlish streamers coming out of the handlebars, long coveted by the birthday girl, had already been purchased.

The girl’s parents remained silent.  I tried to reassure my niece that we’d go wherever she wanted, but she ran upstairs crying.   A few minutes later, when I went up to say goodnight before heading back to where I was staying with my father, the bully, my niece smiled and pretended she was fine.   She’d been taught to do this and was already, at five, a master of the fake, but very ingratiating, smile.  I later learned that as soon as we left she ran into the bathroom and vomited.    She was 100% right to vomit.   She couldn’t have articulated, perhaps, the exact reason she was puking her guts out, but any observer of the scene with her mean grandfather and her silent parents could get a pretty good idea of what had upset her so much.  Her body had no hesitation to vividly express her feelings for her.

Five or six weeks ago I pushed myself a little too hard on a nine mile hike that, with my arthritic knees, was a little too strenuous.   The hike was beautiful and painless, except for the steep, rocky descent and climb back up which were very painful for my knees (the descent had been particularly excruciating).  I needed to rest after the climb, as I’ve learned to do periodically when walking, to take the stress off my knees for a few minutes, but my fellow hikers, none of whom have arthritis, continued happily on and I grimly struggled to catch up over those last few miles.  

I felt fine after the hike and woke up the next day, after a long sleep, feeling fine. That evening, in the car, I suddenly found myself unable to speak.   The sounds I made were the incomprehensible sounds of nonfluent aphasia.   One syllable expletives, expressing my frustration at not being able to speak, were about the only intelligible things I could get out.  

By the time we got to the ER, a few minutes later, my episode of transient nonfluent aphasia was over.  I was able to explain exactly what I’d experienced during those twelve to fifteen minutes of not being able to speak.   Sekhnet reminded me, in telling the doctors, that I’d maintained my ability to say “fuck” and “shit” and things like that.   I was rushed through several tests to rule out an ongoing stroke and determine the severity of this TIA, transient ischemic attack or mini-stroke.   None of the tests showed any reason to keep me in the hospital, I felt fine, my blood pressure and heart rate were normal.   They gave me a pill to take, an anti-coagulant called Plavix (clopidogrel to you and me) that is apparently part of the post-stroke protocol.   I swallowed the first dose in the ER, as instructed, and filled a prescription for the drug the following day, as I found a neurologist to follow up with.

Before it was time to take my second dose of clopidogrel (where do they get these names?) I had dinner and went for my customary walk.   About a mile from the house I suddenly experienced severe abdominal cramps.   I stopped and waited for the rumbling to pass, googling the side effects of clopidogrel (prominent among them were bloating, cramps and diarrhea), and, in the moment that followed, learned the terrible truth of the cliche about when you’re old never pass a bathroom and never trust a fart.  I have long understood the first part of that adage, and I live by it.  The wisdom of that odd bit about never trusting a fart suddenly became clear to me for the first time.

The back of my pants suddenly felt damp and, I’ll be damned, there was a little wet spot,  quickly becoming a cold wet spot.  I shook off my horror and headed home in mounting discomfort, my intestines groaning as I made my way through the residential neighborhood I walk in, where, I thought ruefully, every house I passed has several bathrooms.  As I got close to the house I called Sekhnet in panic, telling her to unlock the door and clear the path to the bathroom.  It was one of the most terrible miles I’ve ever walked.  Arriving at home at last, I pulled open the unlocked door, climbed the first step, and as my foot hit the second, learned the sinister Latin meaning of Plavix:  “explosive diarrhea while walking”.

The neurologist I consulted told me to discontinue the aptly named clopidogrel and I did.  The trauma to my excretory system persisted, day after day, week after week.  Clopidogrel had apparently ripped the hell out of my insides.   This side effect is only experienced by a statistically very small number of patients, and there appears to be no lawsuit related to it among the many against the makers of the drug for several other terrible, even deadly, side-effects.   If I’d had a serious stroke or heart attack, most doctors would have insisted I take this drug.  For a suspected mini-stroke, the protocol apparently requires it.   But it’s some fucked up shit if you fall into that statistically insignificant category who get 100% of side effect number 26, I can tell you from hard personal experience.

As the sudden spasms in my colon continued, punctuated by stirring episodes of what can only be described as a spastic colon, I began a liquid diet.  After 48 hours without solid food, the spasms eventually subsided.   I cautiously began introducing solid foods, noting on paper what I was eating every day.  Brown rice was fine, so were carrots, oddly enough and popcorn, steel cut oatmeal and whole wheat bagels were fine, even with tofu spread, tofu was also fine, persimmons and grapes were OK, raisins immediately brought back all of the symptoms.  

This has been an ongoing dance since October 21.  It’s been improving slowly and by Thanksgiving I ate virtually everything (our host made everything vegan, except for the turkey), in moderate portions, and I was fine.   Even the fine scotch went down without any problem.  I figured I was finally OK again.    Last night, throwing yer proverbial caution to the proverbial wind, I ate a normal dinner with friends, celebrating Sekhnet.  A few hours later my colon announced, with an unmistakable lack of ambiguity, that I’d once again be paying certain prices for my imprudence.

It occurred to me the other day that my colon is absolutely right to be freaking out, roiling and lashing out spastically.  

I follow the news closely and even do a little side reading to get some of the backstories.   The most recent post here, for example, is about the little side story that 3/5 of the president’s original campaign brain trust are now convicted felons.   The fourth was fired early on and was not directly implicated in any improprieties or illegal acts.   The fifth, a pugnacious, crew-cutted twat who should have been held in contempt of Congress for his open contempt, started a lucrative lobbying business across the street from the White House with direct, friendly, personal access to the most “transactional” president in history.   Presumably he is now very wealthy– and loyal to his president beyond question.

The Democrats, we hear, are reluctant to bring the damning conclusions of the Mueller Report (based on specific sworn testimony) into Trump’s impeachment.   (My colon tightens slightly as I write these sentences).  Their reasons for this are practical.  They cannot prove, without sworn testimony from those same witnesses, that the president engaged in the pattern of obstruction Mueller laid out because — the president continues to obstruct access to all fact witnesses who testified to Mueller under oath and all related documents.  It could take more than a year for the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the president’s clearly obstructive behavior.  (An abdominal sonogram ruled out an obstruction in my digestive system, by the way).

This ongoing obstruction by Trump and his myrmidons continues the pattern of the president’s successful obstruction of the original investigation into his campaign’s collusion in massive Russian interference in the 2016 election.  Trump interfered enough, by continually denouncing the “witch hunt” “hoax”, refusing to cooperate, giving “inadequate” evasive, lawyerly written answers and intimidating, praising and floating pardons to witnesses, to ensure that the investigation produced “insufficient evidence” of criminal activities, though Mueller’s report also, explicitly, if almost silently, did not exonerate him of the crime of obstruction of justice.   Mueller’s investigation also put several of Trump’s closest associates (3 of the 5 originals) in prison for felonies related to this obstruction.

My gut correctly points out that it is not intemperate, nor hyperbole, to call the aggressive, diehard, fact-denying followers of Mr. Trump Nazis.   Nazi officials under Mr. Hitler were supremely ambitious men guided by only one principle: das Führerprinzip, the “leader principle” [1].   This meant their supreme duty was loyal, absolute obedience to the will of their leader, their Führer.  As Nazis themselves would put it, even the fine, decent Nazis our president praised after their march in Charlottesville: Führerworte haben Gesetzkraft — the leader’s words have the force of law.   Keep repeating any theory Trump spouts — that is the surest ticket to the leader’s approval and support.

Check out the party of Lincoln now, says my twisting colon.  It’s the party of Trump. We read that he now actually controls all the money the RNC raises, he decides which candidates get party funds for their campaigns and how much they get.   The party strongman is unprincipled, uncurious, viciously opinionated, vindictive, petty, cruel.   The perfect kind of man to blindly obey, if you are an ambitious Nazi.  When Nazis are ascendant, and “facts” no longer even exist, guys like me start getting the heebie jeebies.  So I don’t blame my guts at all for being in an uproar, even as I do my best to calm them.

I sip my broth and think about making a cup of tea.  Yes, my twitchy colon says, a little pineapple chamomile sounds about right.

 

 

{1]   The Führerprinzip [ˈfyːʀɐpʀɪnˌtsiːp] (About this soundlisten) (German for “leader principle”) prescribed the fundamental basis of political authority in the governmental structures of the Third Reich. This principle can be most succinctly understood to mean that “the Führers word is above all written law” and that governmental policies, decisions, and offices ought to work toward the realization of this end.[1] In actual political usage, it refers mainly to the practice of dictatorship within the ranks of a political party itself, and as such, it has become an earmark of political fascism.

 

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