Voices are getting weaker


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Category: Reflections 05 Oct 08


It’s amazing what stress can do to your body. For some six months I have had the taste of apple cider in my mouth. Doesn’t sound bad for a few minutes, but on a prolonged basis it can drive you crazy.

I’ve had every test done. Scans everywhere. Nothing showed up.

“Let’s put it this way,” said one doctor. “You are an A-type person. You are always wound up.” That explained the acidity, he said.

Bizarrely, when I was looking outwards to the world, I never felt it. When I was socialising I forgot about it. I felt it in most acutely the quietest moments. Before falling asleep. Driving. Working.

“I don’t feel I am stressed,” I told one doctor.

“But your body does,” he replied.

Around that time I began hearing all kinds of stories surrounding stress. One woman went totally bald after her divorce while still in her 20s. Another woman, not yet 30, lost all her teeth.

Stressed out

She woke up one morning and they fell out. Another was convinced, given the ferocity of her headaches, that she had a deadly brain tumour, to discover that “all” she had was stress.

The doctor asked me what I was stressed about. Nothing, I said. I am in my final year of law. “Ah,” he said. “I treat most lawyers and many judges with acid reflux.”

I was astonished. We were all stressed and didn’t know it. Our bodies did.

People tell me to take deep breaths, to do yoga, to meditate. I am sure all these activities have their place. But they don’t work for me. As a “doer,” I cannot be still and kept asking myself why, why, why?

I realised then how important it is not to shove issues under the carpet. They fester and grow there and emerge as unrecognisable physical symptoms.

I found some answers and made a few major changes in my life, really hard ones. The biggest change was learning to let go, of children, and letting them be, to allow them to make their own mistakes; to let go my parents, and letting them be as well.

I couldn’t follow my diabetic mother around, lecturing her all day about how this one had to have a leg amputated, that one had to go on dialysis, this one had a stroke, all because they didn’t have the self-control to ensure low sugar levels in this very preventable lifestyle disease.

My fear of flying was irrational. I really couldn’t do anything about the turbulence. I would rather boil my head than stop travelling. I had to let that go as well.

I have never been a great believer of organised religion, and new-age philosophy mostly fills me with horror.

I am, in short, a cynic, but a fraudulent cynic, because despite the madness of our age, the stuff of epic movies, the crashing of Wall Street, the daily rat-a-tat of terrorist attacks, of crazed men going amok shooting wildly at students in schools, in the USA, in Europe.

I believe in destiny. I hold the highly irrational belief that every step I choose to take, every door I open is taking me towards my destiny. I choose my destiny every day.

So, that day when I went to the doctor with an ear that was buzzing (another manifestation of stress?), I was told that I had a highly-treatable, but uncommon, condition in my inner ear that would require an operation.

Must let go

If I left it alone, it would eventually damage my brain or paralyse my face. So here I am, in New York, waiting to do this surgery that I’m told will take four hours, next Tuesday.

Should I be thanking all the people and events that stressed me out, leading me, eventually, to the doctor who diagnosed my condition?

Yes! Because this inner ear infection has been festering in me since my childhood and has no symptoms.

I went to the doctor for something else. Have I also been destined due to this to watch close up, in New York, what greed, speculation, living on credit beyond one’s means can do to hundreds of thousands of people?

Maybe because I am seeing the human faces of the Wall Street crash, that led to the domino crashes in banks in Europe, that led Ireland to take the extraordinary measures of guaranteeing capital in their banks.

I’m seeing friends having to pack up and leave New York, no longer able to afford the big rents, no longer eligible to stay. They are applying for jobs in Singapore, Hong Kong, anywhere a job takes them, shocked at the upheaval.

When I was disembarking at Kennedy Airport, I heard one American woman who had obviously had a hard time in Trinidad say:

“Whew! No more kidnapping threats, no more being afraid to walk on the streets, no more dead bodies in the front pages of the papers.”

Sadly, the voices calling for focusing on education, prudent spending, self-reliance, diversifying, developing a work ethic that doesn’t create a red army of puppets are getting weaker, knowing no one is listening.

Perhaps, I think, it’s time to let go. Maybe we, like America, like the stressed out people in the world, need to fail badly in order to do some real soul-searching, which will eventually lead to our cure.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur