My Body is 80-years-old, but my Brain keeps telling me I’m still 45. One of ’em is lying, but I can’t tell which. I still drive a truck, a tractor and anything with wheels on it. I’ve never had a blameworthy accident so I reckon you’d be safe in the passenger seat — sorry, there’s not one on the tractor. I recently took a series of reaction tests which confirmed my reaction times were those of a 50-year-old, so my Brain was five years out — big deal, I’ll forgive it. So is my Brain on the right track and is my Body the liar?
Not always. We live on acreage and among other chores, that often involves cutting down dangerous trees or cutting up trees which have blown over in a gale. Brain tells me that such activity is good for me, it will keep me fit and I can handle it with ease. So, chainsaw in hand, off I trot off to cut up an old ironbark which blew over a year or so ago. It’s a big tree, but not as huge as ironbarks can grow. After an hour or so of lopping off the branches, Body calls Brain into its office and tells it to quit lying to me, as by now I’m sitting on the trunk of the tree, head down and sucking great gulps of air. I’m bloody thirsty, and my arms are aching from wielding the chainsaw, which now feels that it weighs 30kg. And I’ve only just made a start on turning that tree into usable firewood.
Also, I’m starting to believe Brain is telling porkies. “Nah!” it whispers, “Have a breather and you’ll be ready to go again in a few minutes.” A few minutes pass and I’m not gasping for breath as much as I was, but my shoulders have turned to blocks of wood as supple as the ironbark I’ve been cutting. Then add my aching back and stiff neck. “You just need a few more minutes rest and you’ll be honky-dory,” Brain tells me. So I heed its advice and rest a little longer. But Common Sense — who is an off-spring of Brain, suggests that I make the rest more comfortable, so I hobble back to the house, collapse in my favorite reclining armchair with an icy cold beer and switch on the TV.
When I wake up there’s not a fibre in my upper body that is not aching or even painful. I cast my mind to the task still before me — to turn that bloody tree in firewood, and I shudder at the thought. Young Common Sense informs me that what is ahead is something like climbing Mount Everest using a walking frame. More shudders. Brain, having been dressed down by Body in its office, does a rethink. “Mate,” it says, “you’ve gone at it like a bull at a gate. You are up to it, but you’ve overdone it. Rest up and give it another go tomorrow.” I reckon Brain is on the right track, so I crack another beer and put any thought of a continued attack on the tree out of my mind. Brain is right. Body just got lazy and laid down when the going got tough. I’ll be right tomorrow.
“I’ll be right tomorrow.” How often has Brain promised that, but when the chips were down, Body refused to co-operate? Too bloody many times. Who’s at fault, Brain for making promises it couldn’t keep, or Body for refusing to co-operate? Then young Common Sense has another whisper. It tells me that Brain is the boss of the pair and is full of wonderful ideas and intentions, but Body knows itself better than Brain does. Body has a built-in preservation mode called Pain and when Body know it has had enough exercise, it gives Pain a call so that it can rest.
So I have revised my attitude to Brain and Body. I’m still 45 according to Brain, but when it calls on me to perform according to that age, Body and Pain have a pow-wow and now I listen to Pain which suggests I’m a little older than Brain tells me.
For the record, I did turn that tree into usable firewood, but it took almost another year. I was willing, but Pain kept calling a halt. Brain was as pleased as Punch that the tree ended up providing home heat and told folk it had cut up that big ironbark. Body and Pain kept their mouths shut. And I am still a 45-year-old with the reaction time of a 50-year-old occupying the body of an 80-year-old. But these days I listen more to Common Sense than the other pair.