I’ve mostly avoided writing about my physical pain, but… for well over a year, I’ve suffered from significant physical pain. I had hoped, for a while, that I might reasonably be able to hope for an end to my pain, but that hope seems to be fading. It’s becoming evident that part of what it means to be me is to suffer from fairly constant, fairly significant pain.
The physical consequences of this are straightforward. I can’t bend over. Tying my shoes is hard. I can’t lift, or twist, or engage in much of any sustained physical activity. It affects the kinds of sex I can, or could, have. Or even fantasize about.
The emotional consequences of this are much less straightforward. I’m sad, because I’m having to come to terms with the loss of much that I value, in terms of physical comfort and capacity, yes, but also in terms of my self-conception.
I started balding in my late teens, and/but was able to rock my long curly hair through my early 20s. Until, at about 25, my friends staged an intervention. “You need to shave your head,” they told me. This was at an annual weekend-long bash I hosted in that decade. Before the end of the weekend, my cousin had shaved my head, and it’s never been longer than a quarter of an inch since.
But the thing was, in my mind, I still had long hair well into my thirties. I mean, I knew I didn’t, but I definitely thought of myself not so much as a bald guy, or a guy with a shaven head, but instead, as a guy with long hair. Or at least, the kind of guy who had long hair. This wasn’t delusion, but it was attachment. I was attached to the image of myself as a guy with long hair, and the fact that my pate didn’t cooperate was a problem to me.
Today, I’m in much the same position. I think of myself as strong, active, at ease and comfortable. But I’m none of those things. I actually fell down yesterday in a situation in which I definitely would not have fallen two years ago.
Today, I’m vulnerable, weak, sedentary, and pained. Tomorrow, the month after, the year after, it seems I’ll still be those things, to a far greater extent than I ever imagined I’d be at my age.
As difficult as it is to be those things, at this age, it’s far harder to contend with the gap between how things are and how I would prefer them to be.
It’s not the pain that’s making me suffer, in other words, it’s the sadness and anger I feel at my situation.
I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I’m not asking for your pity. My life is, honestly, pretty fucking excellent, notwithstanding this bullshit. I’m letting you in on my thought process.
The result of all this is that I’m feeling overwhelming anger, more than anything. It makes me a nightmare to be around, I fear, because the anger is so amorphous, so generalized, so lacking in focus. I joked to a friend that this is why we invented God – to give us a focus for our anger at the inevitability of death and decay and loss. But God is, alas, of no use to me. Any meaning of the word “God” which carries any weight with me doesn’t make it a logical place to direct anger or blame for my predicament.
So in search of an object, my anger radiates in every direction.
I’m angry at people I love, people I like. At situations that would previously have amused, or at worst mildly annoyed me. I’m angry at the people who deliver me the news because the news is bad. I’m angry at the news, sure, but I’m also angry about every aspect of the delivery process. I’m angry at anyone or anything remotely connected to my pain – at the pharmacy, at the pharmacist, at my doctors, at their PAs, at their administrative staffs. At the person who bumps into me, at the one who gets the seat I hoped to get. I’m envious of everyone I see engaged in physical activity, and angry at them for (I imagine) taking their ability for granted.
And the intensity of my anger is remarkable as well. I’m not just annoyed. I’m rage-ful. I don’t yell much, ever, and that’s not how my rage works. But my interior dialogues (interesting – they are dialogues, not monologues) are just vicious.
Anyway. I’m here. I’m struggling to feel my sadness, fear, and anger. I know that my anger is my defense against sadness, my defense against fear, and I know that my best path forward lies through feeling and not action.
I meditated this morning (as is my practice) and my meditation consisted of my veering from enumerations of rage and resentment to sexual desire and back again.
That’s interesting. Isn’t it?