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Start Listening To Little People Inhabiting Body

Sun., June 1, 1997

It’s almost summertime and our bodies are waking up, speeding up and in some cases “creaking” up. I’m remembering a column I wrote years ago about what is inside of us.

I got the idea when I was 10, while watching a film in school. It was called “Hemo, The Magnificent,” and it was about the bloodstream. I felt intense during this film, realizing my body was full of red cell guys swimming downstream, white cell guys struggling upstream and lots of workers opening and closing the valves. I decided it was important to treat all the corpuscles with respect.

I kept this idea about all my cells being tiny people with me until, as an adult, I saw Woody Allen’s “Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex.” He has a scene in which the sex cells, dressed as astronauts, are waiting to go on their mission. They are nervous, worried about whether they can do a good job, about who will win the race to the egg. I realized how hard it is for some of those little guys, being bored for weeks and then suddenly given the signal to get into high gear.

Kissing is important because it wakes them up slowly, rolls them out of their hammocks and gives them time to get dressed and psyched up. A “quickie” exhausts them and gives them all headaches.

My ideas about the little people have multiplied since Allen’s movie. I started to watch what I ate because the stomach people have such a messy job. They have to navigate their kayaks around all the stuff, particularly fat globs, and add just the right amount of acid. I didn’t want them in a toxic environment, so I gave up bacon cheeseburgers.

I could imagine these guys complaining about their working conditions: “Can you believe she is eating another dessert? Last week I got my paddle stuck in a Twinkie.” It hurt me to hear them fussing.

There are balloon squads who wait at the edge of your nose for air and race with it to the lungs. They are so busy that it’s not surprising your nose sometimes gets messy. When you blow, you need to be careful or you will hurt them. That is what nose hairs are for, something for them to hang on to when you sneeze. A sneeze is a tornado to one of the little air-moving people.

The air movers in the lungs are usually mellow. They prefer to wear pink sweat shirts and puff about endlessly. But when I am in a smoky environment, I can sense almost immediately that their soft shirts are turning hard and brown and they are looking at themselves, upset.

The heart guys work the hardest of anyone, and they are carefully selected and trained. They get to wear special uniforms. They work in teams of four that rotate every few hours. You put in a few months, and then you get to transfer to some slower area like the rear end.

The brain is a large round room with a dome and a fireplace in the middle. The cells are arranged on cots or chairs in circles around the fire. They muse a lot, read a lot; it is generally quiet. There are occasional well-mannered arguments among friends. A few of the younger ones cause trouble with radical thoughts, but it is becoming more of an old girls’ club than a free-for-all. Once in a while, one or two of them run amok, screaming that the sky is falling or getting angry at something, but not often. The rest have learned to get up, run to the distressed team members and calm them down. They sometimes have to call the memory cells out of their caves in the back of the room, to provide additional information so facts and common sense can prevail.

When I am sad, I can see them all lying around moping. They let the fire go out, close the windows so it is dark and stop reading or talking. I get the message that they need exercise, but no one will move. It doesn’t happen much anymore because the wisdom cells, the ones in the long white robes, give them a gentle lecture.

Everyone loves massage. All the tiny cell people from top to bottom stretch out, serene smiles on their faces, waiting for their turn. If you miss one, it will complain until enough signals are sent to command attention. Promises are made during massages; contracts are signed. Each team vows to take better care of each other. They have sing-alongs and humming contests.

I’ve been much healthier since I accepted the theory of the little people. I listen to them carefully. Mine are getting older and many of them have started wearing elastic pants. At one of the last general meetings, they demanded a shorter work week and loose shoes. Right now the stomach guys are resting, but the feet cells are on their tiny pogo sticks, with their periscopes, wanting to go out.

So I’m going for a walk in the sunshine. I’m willing to please all of them. They take very good care of me, so I plan to give them anything they want.

Tune into your body this summer, listen to those tiny voices, take better care of yourself and sooner or later you will hear them cheer.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Jennifer James The Spokesman-Review

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