reflection at sunrise - pond and sky
I'm in the middle of reading The Time Traveler's Wife - debut novel of Audrey Niffenegger published in 2003. It came out as a film last year and had mediocre success. It is about a man who travels through the times of his own life constantly, and the challenging lifetime relationship he has with one woman.
Even though it is slotted as a romance / science fiction story, it has reached me on an entirely different plane. It is full of thought provoking themes of fate, free will, and self-direction, which intrigue me. The other thing that I find myself weirdly attuned to is the phenomenon of the protagonist's time traveling affliction.
While his sequential life is carrying on, his time traveling self is lifted out of place at random moments. He appears at 15, or 24 or 42, or any age, some place and time in his past or future. He arrives completely naked and famished with hunger. Sometimes the time travel makes him sick to his stomach. With experience he learns how to cope with feeding and clothing himself, and he also learns how to recognize the feeling that he is about to disappear - move on in time once more.
To me, the most interesting concept here is the idea that people can have a condition in life that is entirely beyond their control, that alters the state of their present and requires constant response and adaptation. He can't drive a car, for example, for fear that he might zap away to another time and leave an empty car speeding down the road.
It reminds me of descriptions of various mental disorders, or fainting disorders, seizures or narcolepsy. And on a more benign note, it reminds me the hot flashes of menopause. I can be in a meeting, or driving the car, playing tennis, cooking dinner, sound asleep, or in deep conversation with someone. Then I begin to get that sense at the back of my neck, and I know it's coming.
There is nothing I can do to stop it, so I just have to let it happen. I never know if it will be a mild episode that I can mask easily, or a full blown flush of heat that burns in my cheeks and requires escape from all excess clothing. It changes my present, pulls me out of one world (of sleep, of concentration) and drags me into the full presence of my body's thermal condition.
Generally I have always been one who can roll with the punches. I just take what life throws my way and go with it, make whatever adjustments I need to make in the moment. It has worked pretty well for me, and continues to. I do experiment - try to see if there are strategies for diminishing the severity of a hot flash. Sometimes I imagine I'm making it better, but it's hard to confirm.
It seems to me that people of a more exacting character (unlike the "whatever" attitude of those like me) would have a much harder time with phenomena like this one. There are drugs to try, and nutritional treatments. I have tried some of the natural food store supplements that are supposed to help (especially black cohosh), and it seems like they did. Again, though, it's hard to know since periods of flashing come and go for months at a time, then dissipate on their own.
If you're interested, here is what MayoClinic.com says about hot flashes and treatment. The bottom line, it seems, is that it's just part of life. Trying to fight it could create more side effects, cost, and inconvenience than the problem itself.
It's like being afflicted with the genetic disorder of time travel. In fact, it is a symptom of time travel - it just happens to be the sequential sort of traveling through time. Sometimes life throws things at us that make us sick, or really hungry, or disoriented. All we can do is react, adapt, and make the best of it. It is what the passage of time does to all of us. What is it we're all doing after all, if not traveling through time, coping with the inevitable changes and surprises that come our way?