What is it about the human psyche that relaxes when things are “normal”? Sure, “exceptional” might be sometimes desired but mostly worries are assuaged by the term “normal”. At a point in my life (pregnancy) where nothing fits my old definition of normal, I find this particularly fascinating and frustrating.
My old normal is unattainable. That whole “if you did activity x before pregnancy, you can continue it during!” is total crap. I am an aggressive single-track mountain biker. I don’t crash every time I ride, but definitely every season and sometimes every month. Of course this isn’t a good activity to continue during pregnancy. And I have no clue how a climbing harness would fit me now – my normal harness certainly wouldn’t and I don’t see a rapid weight load around my waist being a good idea right.
In the past, I have been critical of mountain athletes that lose their entire sense of self when they can’t ski after a blown knee, for example. They lose their identity as a person and often fall into a deep funk. I now have more compassion for these people. And it turns out it’s not all physiological.
The IMAX film Adrenaline Rush: The Science of Risk (which I have yet to see due to the utter lack of IMAX theaters near anywhere I have lived) notes that humans are the only animals who seek danger and risk their lives for fun. According to a synopsis of the movie, many extreme athletes have significantly lower levels of an enzyme called monoamine oxidase B. These people have a higher resistance to arousal of certain sections of the brain, meaning that it takes a higher amount of stimulation in order to get the same level of excitement and pleasure others get out of less extreme activities. This makes a lot of sense to me as it would appear that my mother-in-law and husband get this excitement from seeing me stand on the countertops (which I have yet to fall off thank you) while I need a nice exposed arete to get the same high. And of course, we can’t forget about the oft quoted sensitivity to dopamine also present in thrill-seekers.
So for now, I can’t think of a single way to get my monoamine oxidase B OR dopamine fix. My normal has also been changed and I for one am glad to say that this whole “sharing my body” thing is temporary. Yup, I said it – and the “pregnancy is wonderful” police are welcome to beat down my door. If I don’t answer, it’s because I’m cleaning projectile vomit off my shower curtain again. And that’s just not normal.