On Christmas Eve, I slipped and fell running for the bus. And I landed on a metallic part of the pavement, probably dislocating some ribs.
After a spell in the hospital, I’m back home rather like a turtle on its back, having difficulty moving overly much and certainly having difficulty rising from my bed.
(I might add that the hospital stay cost me nothing. So much for “socialist” universal medicare.)
But every circumstance is one in which to learn and I use every circumstance as such. So this day I’m learning about pain.
I see some of the reasons why we fear pain. And I see that our fear of pain makes us easy to manipulate.
I saw that my own fear of pain stemmed from an imagined series of events which I didn’t know would happen, but feared might.
I feared that the experience of pain would reach such a threshold that my body would seize up in the face of it and force the soul out of the body, seeking relief. In short, I feared dying of pain.
Not death itself. Death is release and not painful. But dying might be.
The situation was rather comical. I spent long periods of time lying on my back, wondering how I could possibly get up out of bed if I could not complete the vital part of raising myself up, given that I could not use the muscles of my left chest.
The resolution came when I finally reconciled myself to the pain of it and simply raised myself up. I then had to sit on the side of my bed for quite some time reducing the level of pain gradually so I wouldn’t seize up in reaction. But I managed to go through it. It was a terrific lesson, every second of it and I feel proud of how I’m managing it.
As long as we fear pain, we can be forced to back down from things upon threat of pain. That’s why bullies succeed. “I’m gonna give you a licking.” “I’m gonna teach you a lesson you’ll never forget.” Etc. And we cower in response.
I once had a training that raised my threshold of pain and saved me in a difficult situation and, for any activists among us, it was a very instructive lesson.
I had a karate teacher who wanted to teach me something. He would spar with me in the ring and then violate the ethics that we followed.
We had a rule that there was to be no contact in sparring. But he would constantly manoeuvre me so that the class could not see what he was doing and then punch me in the ribs or solar plexus. Hey, that’s against the rules!
The invitation seemed to be to take the pain without showing it or wimp out and protest. I chose to take the pain. And so he raised my threshold of pain through this secret dance we did, which none of the class ever saw or learned about.
There came a time when I was teaching inner-city adults Canadian history. At least one of my students was a really tough character and he would turn the classes into chaos – or so I judged it.
One day I asked him to stay behind class. The classroom was hot and I began to remove my sports jacket, never thinking that he might perceive this as a menacing gesture.
When I had my jacket halfway off and was helpless, he threw a punch at me.
If ever life slows down for a person, it slowed down for me at that moment. As the punch came in, I heard myself repeat the karate description: “Punch comes in.” I assumed a horse stance bracing for the punch. And smack, it hit me in the eye.
Then I heard myself say, “Now take your opponent down.”
And that’s what I did. Once he was on the ground, I told him never to do that to me again with my fist about three inches from his face.
It’s interesting that I sported the black eye whereas my opponent was not injured and yet he lost the match. I never saw the man again so I can’t say more on that.
Story is story. I don’t want to string this one out. The point of telling it is to demonstrate that our fear of pain makes us open to manipulation. If we don’t fear pain, we’re not as easy to manipulate.
Anyone who watched the story of Jesus on Christmas day and saw John the Baptist threatened with pain could see how one reacts who does not fear pain. Providing Hollywood can be relied upon for a scrap of truth.
So here I am these days, watching my body and mind react to pain, seeing what can and cannot be done, seeing how life is lived when one’s movements are curtailed.
Seeing what adjustments I need to make, what equipment I need to have on my person at all times (mostly a cellphone), how to arrange things, what I can do and must stop doing and not worry about.
There’s no reason why life as a learning experience could not go on even if I had to exist in an iron lung. Not like I wish it upon myself.
I may play with this pain and see just how real it is. I may experiment with how life can be lived fruitfully amid pain.
Once the chiropractor opens up again, I’m sure the pain will be relieved and I’m not overly concerned about it even if it isn’t. Every circumstance can teach something and I don’t want to miss out on the lesson of a moment of it.