Adrenaline and endorphins

I am a child, 4yo, running through the trees, chasing my brother to the creek.  He is far ahead of me.  He didn’t have to sneak out and put a stick in the back door so mom would have to go around the front of the house to chase him down.   I did, so I have to run hard to catch up..  I hate being inside while she cleans the house. . ..I like to climb trees, chase snakes, catch tarantulas and black widow spiders and hide them in the garage to keep them safe from Dad.  

I like adrenaline, but I don’t even know that word exists.  I exist and I climb the fence while Dad is napping and leap from the top of the house because it makes me feel excited, free and real.  

It is me.

Adrenaline: A stress hormone produced within the adrenal gland that quickens the heart beat, strengthens the force of the heart’s contraction, and opens up the bronchioles in the lungs, among other effects. The secretion of adrenaline is part of the human ‘fight or flight’ response to fear, panic, or perceived threat.

Endorphin: A hormonal compound that is made by the body in response to pain or extreme physical exertion. Endorphins are similar in structure and effect to opiate drugs. They are responsible for the so-called runner’s high, and release of these essential compounds permits humans to endure childbirth, accidents, and strenuous everyday activities.

I am 52 and I still climb things but when I jump down and land, my feet hurt. I do it anyway.  I leave my house, put on headphones and  I take off running.  I can’t stand pavement, but seek out little trails off the path to run.  I come home with scratches, stickers in my shoes and an occasional tick, but filled with endorphins.

I have come to realize that I surf because I love the feeling of floating on the top of the water while toothy creatures swim beneath me unknown.  I like to surf bigger waves. Not big, thumping, dumpy shore break, but the big rolling swell way outside of the pier.  They scare the hell out of me on a longboard, but I love that feeling of free falling.  That rush.  Adrenaline.

The afterglow is endorphins, and they are the opiate addiction of every athlete. I have been addicted since childhood.  The wild child that was hard to tame.

There are types of adrenaline that I do not like. Fear for my husband or children’s safety makes me panic.  That adrenaline can bite me.  It paralyses me with the fear of loss and I just come unglued with it.  I am a Barbie with this and I fear I will never conquer it.  I just won’t and I honestly think as a mother, we are not supposed to ignore it.

I also DO NOT enjoy adrenaline due to hypoglycemia.  OMG, two middle fingers to it.  The bodies last ditch attempt to raise a blood sugar that can’t sustain life.  I am lucky in that I have learned how to recognize it and I know it isn’t going to kill me even though it makes me feel that way.  I override it now and try to make it mine. It is just doing its job and I ride it out.

But that wonderful mechanism of adrenaline and endorphins that God created in our bodies in response to thrill?  It is the most incredible high that no drug can ever mimic.

Bill and I are both adrenaline/endorphin junkies.  We are both well into our 50’s at this point with Bill closing in on 60 in a matter of months.  He is starting to have issues with his joints and can’t really run much anymore. He broke his foot badly a few years ago and because of this he also avoids long hikes and such.  I can’t tell you how hard this is. I miss him and this part of our relationship.   He has always been my exercise junkie partner.  We would seek out the crazy and hard activities in life and indulged in them together.  He still surfs, and rides a bike here and there so we still get to do this together but it is different, and I miss it dearly.

Yesterday I ran 4 miles and afterwards was thinking how magical it feels to be so satisfied and full of endorphins.  I let my thoughts roam to a time when I won’t be able to do that anymore and I had to slam that door shut.  Can’t go there.  I can’t imagine a me that is not able to run, bike or surf.

Almost 9 years my senior, Bill is always reminding me of my mortality. He sees it every day in his profession and he has accepted end of life as the natural outcome of our party here on earth.  I can be having a conversation about wanting to do this or that before I physically can’t, and how I just can’t sit back and allow the day to end without seizing it, and he will say “One day it will Jody. It is the one outcome we can count on.”

This. Makes. Me. Crazy.  Of course we are going to die. It is truly inevitable.  I get that. I just don’t want to have it be THE beacon of light in front of me, or the so called reality slap when we feel too good.

I am 52 years old.  I grab my longboard and paddle out into the Gulf past the pier.  My board is so heavy and when the big sets come I take a beating trying to make it through the white water.  I am not as strong as I used to be but who cares.  I make up for it with pure will.  If you tell me I can’t or that I shouldn’t, you can bet that I will.  I love the feeling of adrenaline as I see the sets rolling toward me…..butterflies in my stomach.   I turn and wait for the biggest wave and then paddle for it.  I want to free fall from that surging dark mass of water that the breath of God created. 

I knock out trail miles until  I can feel my heart thumping in my chest to the rhythm of my pounding feet.  I run grassy trails, leaping surprised over coral snakes; adrenaline surging like warmth into my arms and legs.  I feel the glow of endorphins for hours after as I go about the daily tasks and chores of life.  

I want to do this every day of my life until I cannot anymore.  I feel an urgency to it.  The tick tock of an invisible clock.  Right now, I can, but there will come a day when just to walk will be monumental.  

At that point I will close my eyes and feel the warm shingles of the roof under my 4 year old feet. I will remember the thrill rush as my body surges over the edge and my feet land in the cool moist grass.

I will have my memories.  I will exist in the present and the past.

Combined together it will be me. 

Image by Rob Henson
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