I’ve always been fascinated with the way life affects my body. Just the concept that, through experiences that are often just flukes, my body can change permanently from how it was before. The first time I was injured in a way that meant I would have a permanent scar, for example, is still very clear in my mind—not the pain, or the injury itself, but how I stared at my arm and marveled that it would never, ever, be scar-free again. It was sort of a marveling that I am actually alive, really—that this life thing is really happening to me.
I experienced the same thing when I got my ears pierced. My parents had required me to wait until I was fourteen to pierce my ears. Then it was my choice. I remember lying in bed, trying to imagine myself with holes in my ears. It was so permanent! I tried to picture my life ahead of me—going to the temple with pierced ears, for example, or taking care of my children with pierced ears.
Same thing happened the day before I started typing class. I remember staring at my fingers, wriggling them, thinking, “Tomorrow they will have been initiated into the mystery of typing.” Things that occur through my body are endlessly fascinating to me because I am so interested in time, the before and after of moving along in time through experience.
I had a sort of tiny nervous breakdown on the day my mother took me to buy garments because I would be getting my endowment later in the week. I remember how perplexed she was by my tears. I just couldn’t make her understand why the thought of my entire future stretching out before me in which I would be having to wear something different, strange, and so symbolic of adulthood was overwhelming to me. It was the crossing of a line that could never be returned from that got to me. It's significant to me that it was an outward thing, too--a physical thing involving my body. I would never see my body the same again, knowing it would always be covered by these garments.
Anyway, I mention all of this because something new, in regards to my body, has come into my life lately, something I never thought would happen to me: ever since my car accident last year, certain driving situations give me get panic attacks. Real panic attacks, in which my heart beats fast, I sweat, my eyes dilate, I get that leap in my stomach that you get when someone jumps out at you. My mind can say, “This is stupid; nothing is wrong; your fear is unfounded,” and my body answers, “Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah, I can’t hear you!” (with it’s metaphoric fingers stuck in its metaphoric ears). It’s like there’s no connection between the logical part of my mind and the rest of me. Amazing, strange experience, like being possessed, I imagine. I am dumfounded to find that this has happened to me, that I am now a person who gets panic attacks. Life is so weird!
The scriptures have some amazing things in them about bodies, and about how our lives and choices affect our bodies. There’s a really interesting passage in Mormon Doctrine about bodies—about how our lives and what we’ve become will be able to be literally read through our bodies, similar to the way we learn about a tree by examining its rings. (I’m not a big fan of that book, but I love this passage.) I think most of us have no idea how amazing our bodies are, and how much they are actually an instrument of the spirit. I think they are like another sense, a sense for picking up the spirit. They are integrally involved in sanctification, I believe.