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Here Comes Treble: Adrenaline Junkie

...As I reversed out of the parking bay, I scrabbled in my bag for my mobile, looking over my left shoulder, swinging to the right to avoid the pole that wasn’t there… CRASH, CRUNCH!!! Oh, my beautiful little car…

Isabel Bradley tells of high-adrenaline events, some welcomed, some not.

After two weeks of complete withdrawal from the world over Christmas, 2011 began quietly, almost as if it was afraid to make itself felt. That didn’t last long.

By 10 January, I was back at the office where I usually spend one or two mornings a week; I was rehearsing for my first recital of the year with Peta-Ann and Susan; arranging the first committee meeting of the year for the orchestra and auditions for the youth concert later in the year. In fact, I was fully into the busy swing of life, as usual.

On 24 January, Peta-Ann, Susan and I, with Leon as page-turner, dressed in formal black with blue touches, except for Peta-Ann who was in formal blue with black touches. At five-thirty in the afternoon, we walked on-stage at the University of Johannesburg. The audience was larger than usual at the Sundowner Concerts, and very enthusiastic. We all thoroughly enjoyed the music, and the audience showed their appreciation with extensive applause. It was a marvellous experience, excellent for our egos, and the adrenaline rush was amazing.

Afterwards, we went to a restaurant nearby, accompanied by friends who’d attended the concert. We talked and laughed and ate good food, and the adrenaline drained from my system. My left shoulder-blade felt as if a great dagger was being twisted in it and I couldn’t get comfy on the hard chair. I was suddenly so tired I could barely keep my eyes open.

Next day was anti-climactic: instead of feeling like a super-musician I was just another person slogging away on the treadmill at the gym and shopping for groceries at the supermarket. I dragged myself home, unpacked, then slept for an hour in the afternoon. There wasn’t more time to relax: I rushed off to that committee meeting I’d organised, followed by an exciting orchestra rehearsal in which we were joined by several really good new players, feeding my body more adrenaline highs and lows.

On Wednesday morning I went to work again. By the time I arrived at the office, I felt distinctly detached from my body and from everyone around me. While the Executive Committee of the Institute held an all-day strategy meeting, I sat quietly behind the computer and tried not to speak to anyone. At half past three, I finally closed down the computer and dragged my body to the car. I wanted to phone Leon and let him know I was on my way home.

As I reversed out of the parking bay, I scrabbled in my bag for my mobile, looking over my left shoulder, swinging to the right to avoid the pole that wasn’t there… CRASH, CRUNCH!!! Oh, my beautiful little car…

The pole was unexpectedly on my right, and I’d swung the car very heavily into it, ripping off the right wing-mirror. The fender was sort of wrapped around the pole, not too deeply but I made more crunching, grinding noises before I manoeuvred her away from the pole. Shaking, I fought back tears of anger, frustration and shock. With an arthritic groaning, I opened the door and climbed out to assess the damage. No-one else was in the parking lot, no-one had seen my stupid manoeuvre. She was drivable, I was relieved to see, but my poor car was bruised and battered and needed hospitalisation.

As I got back into the driver’s seat, the offending phone was in my hand… well, wasn’t it the phone’s fault that I’d crashed into the pole? Or had the pole moved to the right instead of being on the left? Or was it the Executive Chairman’s fault? He had parked in my usual bay so that I’d had to park in a different spot. I had to conclude that I couldn’t blame anyone or anything but me for being so distracted. Before I drove out of the parking lot, I dialled Leon’s mobile, my phone tuned into the hands-free kit in the car. Leon’s reaction was as loving and calm as always: “Don’t worry, love, that’s what insurance is for…” Driving on the freeway was difficult and dangerous without my right wing-mirror, I felt as if I was blind in one eye.

Three weeks later, the car is nearly as good as new, I’m driving her again, but waiting for a tiny light and a fender-lining, delivery of which was delayed by a truck-drivers’ strike. This expensive reconstruction was, thankfully, paid for by the insurance company.

Over the next week, my moods swung wildly from frustration and irritation to being too-easily upset with occasional patches of almost-hysterical laughter and excitement. I made several really silly mistakes, culminating in arriving a whole month early for a friend’s 80th birthday party. The date was right: the 5th. The day was right: Saturday. The time was right: midday… The month was February instead of March. I felt a complete fool.

Driving home to an unexpected and very welcome afternoon completely free of any duties or expectations, I sternly told myself it was time to pull myself together, a state of mind which, after a week with the wild animals in the bush, I think I’m beginning to achieve.

Sitting at my computer to edit this article, the term ‘adrenalin rush’ in the second paragraph drew my attention. I used it to describe the emotional high of being in ‘The zone’ during the recital on 24 January, described in my article, ‘The Zone’, ‘Here Comes Treble’ of 9 February 2011. Before the recital, I’d spent many months in a constant state of stress and tension.

Wondering if there was any connection between adrenalin and my extraordinary state of emotional withdrawal, I did a web search on Google and found several enlightening articles:
It seems that adrenaline, “can produce some very unusual feelings and sensations…. when you get a large shot of adrenaline or are fatigued from being under constant tension… you can feel detached from reality… as if you are observing but not participating in life… alienated and distant from friends and relatives… time slows down, you constantly worry and time drags…”

That paragraph led to a quick self-diagnosis, it described exactly how I felt over the last few weeks: detatched, distanced, unfocussed.

I also learnt that adrenaline dilates blood vessels and air passages, enabling the body to pass more blood to the muscles and get more oxygen to the lungs, increasing physical performance for short bursts of time. This explained the physical ease and joy of playing my flute while ‘in the zone’…
To avoid overdoses of adrenaline in future, I must find a way of avoiding stress and tension when dealing with unpleasant and difficult situations. More importantly, as I never know when the delight of entering ‘the zone’ will offer itself again, I will make sure that for at least a week after each future recital, I will neither drive, work, shop, rehearse or attend meetings. This should allow me to recover from that wonderful adrenaline rush without placing myself and those around me in danger.

See:

http://www.openwriting.com/archives/2011/02/the_zone_1.php#more

http://www.lindaland.com/stressbook/page20.htm

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-adrenaline.htm

Until next time…. ‘here comes Treble!’

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by Isabel Bradley

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