It is 3:30 in the morning and I am wide-awake. My mind has no control over my body’s internal clock. It does not matter the inadequate quantity or quality of sleep I have had this night. Yesterday I traveled from there to here. There, the day has begun. Here, the sun is still well below the horizon. While my mind can understand the meaning behind the numbers shining from the little box next to the bed, my body only knows that somewhere, far from where I am now, it is time to get up.
That odd disconnect between mind and body is what makes us human. Humans have self-control, which should mean that we control the way react to things. And we do, most of the time. But there are exceptions to that rule. We can’t control sneezes. I can’t control the way my eyes tear up when the wind hits my face, or the way my sinuses react to mold. My body reacts to stimuli without my say so all the time. How much control do I actually have?
Right now, at this ridiculous hour of the morning, I feel like I have no control at all.
Don’t tell me about strategies to overcome jet lag, I’ve tried them all. Nothing works for me. My body just takes its own sweet time to catch up with the sun. Nothing I do will speed up that process.
In a strange way, I’m ok with the way my body refuses to acknowledge this need. I’m fine with it overruling my mind every once in a while. As much as being human is about having self-control, occasionally losing that control reminds me that I am not just a mind traveling around in a mobile shell. Like one of those sci-fi stories with a creature living inside the head of a huge robot, controlling its movement with levers and knobs and pedals. Pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain. My jet lag reminds me to pay attention to my body. It is not just the lesser half of an uneven partnership. My walking, eating, occasionally sneezing, and jet lagged body is not a separate entity. My body is me. Often ignored, occasionally scorned, and rarely respected, but still me.
Perhaps it takes the pain and inconvenience of jet lag to make me stop and pay attention to this crazy body of mine. Perhaps that is good. I should not ignore it or take it for granted. I should nurture it, and take better care of it. This is the only body I will ever have and it is an intrinsic part of who I am, literally warts and all. I need to breathe more deeply, blink more often, drink more water, and take long walks. I promise I will do all that and more.
If only I could convince my body that, right now, all I really need is to go back to sleep.