The year was 1995. I was a history professor in South Carolina, and as a new scholastic year began, I became mysteriously ill. Day after day, I awoke with a burning fever that lasted until noon. My joints ached, and I was perpetually exhausted. It was a struggle just to get dressed and drive myself to work. After I taught my last class of the day, I fell back into bed until morning. A doctor ran a battery of tests, but she found nothing to explain my illness. Even though it was clear to me that the cause must be psychosomatic, my symptoms persisted, and I began to fear I would never get well. Then one morning as I sat in my pajamas at the kitchen table, I wrote in my journal of how I wished I didn’t have to go into teach that day but, instead, could stay home and write. I enjoyed the idea so much, I began to embellish this fantasy of an ideal day, spent wearing comfortable clothes and alternating between writing, taking long walks with my dog, and puttering in my garden.
Something amazing happened as I wrote out this fantasy. My wracked body suddenly came alive. A white-hot energy coursed through my veins and radiated out around me like a halo. This bubbly feeling of euphoria was so starkly different than the way I had been feeling of late that I looked down, half expecting to see my body popping out of my clothes like some great, green hulk. When I saw no physical transformation there, I ran to the bathroom mirror to see if something was happening to my face. Sure enough, my cheeks glowed like they were on fire, and my eyes shone like two blue lasers.
In that instant, I understood what my body had been trying to tell me. Teaching history was killing my spirit. My morning fevers were merely the physical manifestation of the anger I stuffed way down deep because I felt trapped in a profession that I had worked ten long years just to be qualified for. Leaving the university was not only what I wanted to do; it was what I had to do. Tears streamed down my face as I vowed to honor my heart. And with that promise, my illness dissipated.
There is a reason for all those clichés about intuition. We say, “I knew it in my bones,” or “I knew it in my heart.” We say, “I had a feeling this would happen.” Or we say, “I knew it in the very core of my being.” We even say, “My gut told me.”
It’s true. In our bones, in our heart, and in our gut, we really do know things that our brains don’t want to know. At any crossroad, great or small, when I rely for guidance on the tingles or tightness, the aches, or the goose bumps, I can always find my way home.