I've always thought of my consciousness as a pea, my body as a pod -- which, I suppose, makes me pea-brained. Those metaphors, I find increasingly wonky because they fail to express the seamless connection between mental and physical me. I think; my body does; my body feels; I feel. Turns out, though, the linkage is more tenuous than I presumed.
My first sign of this came last Wednesday. I had my inaugural experience with general anesthesia's power to shut off mental me. Here today, gone tomorrow. Except, instead of days, the switch flipped in just a minute or two. ("Light" anesthetic they called it, which struck me as ironic since I spent almost our entire encounter in the dark.) One moment, a voice behind me said, "We're giving you a mild sedative;" the next moment I registered was nearly three hours later, having missed a litany of cutting, drilling, poking, and stitching. My body did -- or was done to -- plenty; I felt nothing. A new experience of not experiencing.
Then, yesterday, I debuted in physical therapy. The therapist pointed to my right leg, the working one of the two stretched before me. "I want you to fire your quad," she said. I did, the muscle clenching and tugging my kneecap slightly up. "That's it," she said. "Now try that with the left one." I did, try that is, but nothing happened. I looked at the left knee, sent what had historically been appropriate brain impulses, and neither muscle nor bone quivered. Another new experience: my usual calls were not going through. The therapist assured me this was normal. She connected several patches from an electric stimulation apparatus to my quad and proceeded essentially to jump-start me.
Chemicals severing my consciousness from my body? I'd be disingenuous to say that had never happened before, but not to this degree. Electricity finishing the bodily job my consciousness wasn't fully up for? Humbling. "O brave new world that has such a piecemeal person in it," I think to myself, tempest-tossed.