And what a truce with pain feels like.
I’ve been in pain the last several days. The phrase “ in pain” relays the immersive experience of it, as if you were in an aquarium tank going in circles. Currently, the muscles up around my spine feel like a twisted geyser and my head seems to be pulling to the right.
Without quite realizing it, I’ve been practicing the ‘Getting Through It’ mentality. You know, you’re walking around kind of on fire and yet you have to keep calm and complete the day’s itinerary. I get like this sometimes. My world narrows to a long, darkened hallway and there is a lot of trudging. The hills are not alive with the sound of music. If the pain is extended, I approach what Bessel Van Der Kolk , author of The Body Keeps The Score, describes as the after-effects of trauma — feeling “forsaken.” For as God spitefully said in the book of ,
“Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey;
but I will not go up among you…for you are a stiff-necked people.”
Yeah, resentment is the gum you chew on in this state. When pain is prodding you, every gesture like clearing the sink or reading a long-ish story at bedtime makes a little cut in you, so you’re spilling all over the place. Getting weaker, getting angrier.
Up in the head’s quarters, this situation is alternately being cast as an insult (I can’t even get one goddamn thing done today!) or a tragedy (Look at how far I’ve fallen — hobbling around the house at a weird angle, desperate for the couch).
When you’re in pain, “later” is like heaven. Later I will lie down. Later wine is allowed. Later people will stop asking me things.
But sometimes I don’t want to keep gritting my teeth and trying to be productive, tuning out my pain. Sometimes I want to turn around and see the face of it. I always think that the pain will have an angry face — as if it were sent to punish me. Or I think it’s made of stone, and that it will last forever. I’m fearful that if I slow down, the pain will catch up and devour me. Except when I do stop and wait for the blow to arrive, it never hurts. The pain never hurts when I stop fighting. Actually, for a moment, it’s like Christmas on the Western Front during World War I when the soldiers climb awe-stricken out of the trenches to sing a universal carol before the next terrible day.
The pain gives me its gift and I get soft, a little wet in the eyes. Suddenly, I am filled with this feeling of tenderness as if remembering a baby I once had. I had forgotten something I loved so much which is just being, not striving.
The gift of pain is in the accession to it. I’m always fearful to feel the pain, partially because I will have to drop so many things I’ve been holding: my plans, all these intentions to be better, the possibility of a disappointment-free life. And who will I be when I’m just a guy on the floor, or someone sitting with his eyes closed in the middle of the day? For a brief time, all ambition is extinguished.
This kind of sad is whole and even peaceful. This gift from pain never lasts and there is no way to even remember it when it’s gone. When you’re busy or when you’re well (i.e. still hoping Everything will work out), you don’t have this gift.
And even when you do have it, as I do right now while writing these words, you realize it’s utterly un-transferable. You can’t make any money off it; you can’t even tell anyone about it (except your entire newsletter audience).
I never want it, but when I let the wave catch up with me I am broken-hearted and grateful.
Originally published at https://www.dancayer.co on December 8, 2020.