Tag: wretchedness

The energy of pain.

If you were sitting across the table from me right now, watching me fidget and listening to me laugh too loudly, i would tell you: this is the energy of pain.  For months i have been retreating as often as i could into mediation and stillness. The sensation of being inside this skin was so overwhelming that i hid inside the sanctuary of solitude and quiet. As a result, my ability to listen to my body is stronger than it has ever been. So, trust me when i say that as i write these words, the energy of pain sings in high relief within my awareness.

Before it gets incapacitating, pain can create a perverse surge of energy.  Perhaps this is actually the need for distraction, building up inside until it starts to burble out in images, in stories, and in attempts to work that feel more like spasms than anything useful. Limbs cause enough discomfort to keep me from standing for a long time. Twelve days out of surgery, i have to keep myself from lifting heavy things. My body needs me to be conscious of my limitations.

The miraculous shift in my flesh has made such self-restraint chafe.  i want to do and go and be! The pain is so much better! Optimism so fierce that it borders on delusion has returned to my soul! Quietly, slowly, my internal engines of inspiration, discipline and resiliency have started to churn once more.

Months ago, i made a resolution to be kind to myself. i renewed the vow at the beginning of lent (giving up my tendency to verbally abuse myself when i am in distress.) However, after so long down, after ten months watching my circumstances disintegrate while my body could not function well enough to fix the problem, i am welcoming any energy that comes to me – even that which carries this unpleasant hue.  i cannot repress the feeling that all will be well, simply because one simple surgery could change so much.

My uterus, the tumors that were trying to break out of it, and about half the load of pain i had been bearing were removed in a four hour long operation. (According to one of the surgeons a tumor that was peeking out of the organ had its own tumors, like little unwanted ears.  No wonder the process of removal took some time.) The first thing i said when i came out of anesthesia was “Oh, my God, the pain is so much better.”  And in the days following surgery it became even more apparent. Recuperating at a friend’s house, i felt like i was taking advantage of her kindness.  Despite the incisions, i felt stronger and more able than i had for at least a year.

i can tell my body is wounded and healing.  This has done nothing to fix my hips or my problems with my spine, not to mention fibromyalgia, diabetes and the other health issues with which i struggle, but this current level of pain does not incapacitate me.  Even with the buildup of energy that i am experiencing right now, i am coherent enough to write. i am aware enough to be filled with ideas and inspiration.  i could literally burst with hope, simply because i am no longer feeling completely impotent inside my skin.

Before surgery, i kept thinking about my journey. The part of me that tried to get pregnant for twelve years mourned. All the hopes and dreams that i had lost over the years passed through me like shades, giving me the opportunity to ask them to leave, to be carried out of me with my womb.  Once the hysterectomy was finished, i was filled with a sense of peaceful closure. i will always feel some grief over the family i never had, but the contentment is greater. Even more profound, i accepted something that i had said before but never quite let settle down into my cells: i am the end of my line, which means, damn it, i need to stand up and make this journey worth all the trouble and suffering.

So, if you see me over the next few days, and i am bouncing or drifting on my feet, talking too fast about random things, getting so excited about the thought of making art and crafting story again, please forgive me. i believe i am finally able to dig myself out of this hole, and i am marshaling whatever forces i can toward that goal. The energy of pain can be off-putting to the people around me, i know, but please understand, i am giving thanks every single moment for the fact that my body’s burdens have grown lighter.

 

sunlight and mood

For two days, I was struggling physically on a level that really demoralizes me.  Once I lose grip on my health, to the point I can’t walk well or function for at least four hours a day (even if those hours are isolated with several hours of less function in between), I start to despair.  I don’t know how else to describe it, I know it isn’t particularly rational, and I fully realize the look is not attractive. Ironically, if you include writing, I can get a lot of work done during those days (the prayer and meditation blog is queued up through July!), but the work is not always what I want to be creating. The two major pieces of prose I’ve wrote (one the day before yesterday, one the day before that) disappointed me, despite being well written.  One centered around feeling invisible and the other on how hard it is to be one of those people that society seems to forget, neither poor enough to get help nor rich enough not to be drowning. Both pieces echoed this sense of frustration, vulnerability and the acute fear that all the terrible things said about me, all the times people have predicted my doom (nearly every artist I know has a chorus of those voices following them around like we are in some Greek tragedy) were true.

So much of my writing – poetry in particular – has shifted to themes that are happier and more centered. Most of the time, what ever spells I spend in darkness have been shorter and caused by something tangible – like being ridiculously unable for two days.

So, yesterday, I was quietly thrilled when I found myself able to matt and frame some paintings and bother one of my favorite students with my jabbering.  Then, I managed to be social at a wine-tasting where I was the featured artist, although I fear some of my anxiety leaked out my lips a bit.  Afterward, I conquered a mountain of dishes (after which I sang a small song to celebrate my victory) and very quickly afterward staggered into bed.  However, the poems I wrote last night were not drenched in sorrow.  Worry, sure.  Pessimism, a bit. Loneliness, oh heck yeah.  But the knife of wretchedness had lifted out of my heart.

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what a happy goober.

After nearly twelve hours of sleep, I managed to get out of bed this morning without walking like a hamstrung Quasimodo.  After a couple of hours of poetry and putzing around the house, I took the dog for a quick hike – 50 minutes though the woods – before opening the studio for the day.

There is a miracle that happens in the sunlight, feeling the breeze off the harbor and looking at that dog smile with such joy.  It melts away the stress, even though my situation hasn’t changed.  The act of moving over that uneven ground makes me feel more at home within my body.  Usually prayers and thanksgivings float through me while I walk, but today, I simply enjoyed the quiet melting of those last shreds of despair.  The forest comes back to life – the sight of it filled me with poetry and gave me hope for myself.  After this terrible winter, we all have the hope of rebirth and happiness.

But I have one last observation, that struck me as I got the studio ready to open for business today.  When a student has a sudden run of difficulty with a throwing, when they race to the brink of despair thinking they have forgotten everything and suddenly and profoundly suck, I am always reminding them to check the wheel, check the bat, check the tool they are using.  Sometimes, the cause for their problems is actually external, or at least definable.  I can point to something and say – yes, this, this uneven wheel head is why everything you make is slightly off-center (one of my kick wheels has this issue).  There is no cause for despair or insecurity when the problem is in the environment or the machinery.  It becomes a call to either fix the problem or learn to adapt to new conditions.

In a way, I really have to get myself to look at these spasms of wretchedness the same way.  When my body is broken or overextended, I do not have the resources other people have to just bounce back – it takes time and that takes a toll on my mood.  I do not enjoy pain.  I get tired of weariness very quickly.  It was an exercise in faith this week to let myself be discouraged and down and not fear sparking an ongoing depression – and frankly, if someone were grading the exercise I do not think I got a passing grade.

 

darwin_closeup
seriously, such a happy goober

As I cleaned the wheel off, I realized with a shock, I had a mechanical issue sparking my problems and just like my students I had run to the easy explanations:

I am worthless, I am doomed, I am terrible.  Once the physical issues lifted, even slightly, the despair could melt away in the sunshine.

Which just means, I have to remember what I teach.  And I have to get the dog to look like this more often.

 

the power of joy

Years ago, during a terrible spell when all my efforts were going into conquering PTSD, the therapist with whom I was working pointed out a powerful gift that I had been given. As we discussed a few of the people who haunted my past, I realized that her observation might just be the answer to the question: what made me different from those whose specters had brought me to her office?

roxi_closeupFast forward seven years, to the past three days, when blinding and agonizing headaches have besieged me after dinner to the point where I am double over by nausea, massive light and sound sensitivity and a profound emotional rawness. All my nerves have been stripped of their insulation. These have been worse than any migraine – absolutely crippling pain. Hours of insomnia and then fleeting, agitated sleep left me discombobulated and low each morning. And, of course, add on the snowstorms. Oh, the suffering! I can be so melodramatic when there is no one around to laugh at me.

But I remembered something this afternoon that changed everything around. I remembered the blessing the therapist pointed out: I can feel joy!

I remembered as I was curled up in bed, trying to hide from every possible stimulation that could tax my overly sensitive neurons. Roxi the cat started grooming my forehead, placing herself deftly between the book and my eyes, no doubt fearing for my safety should I try to harness thought. Darwin the dog leaned into my legs and sighed contentedly until he finally fell asleep. Martin, the other cat, perched on my shoulder, his purrs vibrating into me. It was a quiet joy, not as intense as when I am dancing and singing or become so enthusiastic that time seems to slow down – or is it that I speed up? – but sublime nonetheless. The soft warmth of happiness flooded every aching cell.

Either quiet or loud, joy is a gift and a blessing. To lose all my griefs and worries inside a singular moment of bliss can soothe any suffering – even when the the former is brief and the latter prolonged. If there is a cosmic scale weighing these opposite states, joy is three times as dense as it shimmers on the balance. Joy penetrates every atom, illuminates all the empty spaces instantly, like a sudden sunrise.

As the headache started to settle in again a few moments before I began writing, I reflexively went to memories of happiness like they were a spring in a desert. I prayed for those who have wounded me, whom I have never saw joyous, but instead watched as they steeped in negativity until they became bitter.

There is great power in joy, and it is a wonderful gift to be shameless enough to embrace it – even when the source is something small – like managing to write a pithy blog before my head actually explo