entry 6 - what (else) can pain teach me?
this entry most likely contains swear words and something else that might offend you; i didn't re-read it very carefully. it seems polite to warn you.
begun 5.2.2021 - 10:00
my body is trying to help me become more aware today. that's a thought that takes hold in my mind in place of “my neck fucking hurts.”
pain that is this noticeable, this noisy, really does capture my attention. it becomes difficult to focus on tasks besides pain management, stretches, exercises, breathing. and yet, work goes on, things beckon to be finished, guilty admonishments flit by: “you don't know shit about your body,” “you should be getting more sleep,” “when are you gonna stop having problems?”
that last one is the most insidious of all – in seven short words it labels what i'm experiencing as a problem (a thing that shouldn't happen unless something is wrong) and it insinuates that this happens to me very frequently. confronting this thought reminds me how deeply embedded my physical identity is; i am a strong, flexible, capable, confident person with a body that works. except, am i? compared to who? and even if i was, so what? who cares? is there some kind of ultimate destination or paragon of function that i want to embody for ever and ever?
no! yes! the words come simultaneously, or as simultaneously as anything can be recorded in the mind. i have real desire to be a particular way, but i grow increasingly aware of how much of my desire is based on fantastical representations of what is actually possible. a life without physical pain? bah humbug. it shouldn't be a question of whether i want that or not, of course i want that, but do i and can i really be said to want that when it's not a thing that can ever really be had? i'd like to attune my desires to what is real, to what will generate more possibility, and fulfill more need.
experimenting, thinking, postulating, pontificating – all these things come easily for me. sustaining, remaining, listening, observing – these attributes are the focus of my behavioral desire.
last night, after cooking and eating dinner, i knew two things: i felt dehydrated and i felt like my body wanted to stretch. i think i could've stretched during the movie i watched with my comrades, but instead i kept noticing how uncomfortable i felt, and fidgeted from position to position, gradually observing my neck grow tighter and tighter. i think the predominant thought in my mind was “just don't worry about it, relax, it'll go away.” i don't want to dismiss that thought, because like adrienne says, what you pay attention to grows. i have experienced moments of relief from physical pain when i manage to deposit my focus fully on some other task.
but, in the balancing act, i could've listened more fully to what my body was saying. i could've easily stretched my neck while sitting in that easy chair, and still enjoyed the movie. there was more room for negotiation than my quick-dry concrete mind was willing to indulge. i could've gotten a glass of water.
i do think it's helpful to point out these past possibilities, so as to notice opportunities for behavioral adjustment in the future, but now i must fully embrace and listen to the messages of today. i should think about the tony of the future. will my future self be forgiving of my current inclination to do more stretching than lesson planning? or will that future tony be frustrated that he still has so much work to do?
the birth of my first child approaches – my partner is due in 7 weeks. a thought in my head with a too-loud-for-this-small-room voice says “what if you hurt your neck like this right before or during the birth? you'll be fucking useless!” another voice counters in a soft, detached tone “that won't happen.” and another eager participant, with my slow, over-emphasize-the-important-words teacher voice says “i can handle the situation as it happens. i can take care of my body and my partner's body at the same time.”
the other voices are like, “oooooo he really sounds like he knows what he's talking about....” but who can be sure? i'm guessing about my body all the time. and that is probably the root of some of my mental conflict surrounding my body: i don't know that much about it. a book i've been reading recently said to find the medial of the ankle, and press just behind the tibia. i was like “wha-HUH?“
ha! google's first hit for me when searching 'tibia' was a link to an online multiplayer role-playing game. doesn't that reflect what i'm observing about my lack of knowledge about my physical body? google's like, 'oh you don't need to know about a bone in your leg, you need to know about this sweet ass game.” well, google's never steered me wrong before....
no! the tibia, damnit. riffin' on wikipedia here: tibia, shinbone, shankbone (took a break here to stretch my neck for 20 breaths), it connects to the fibula, which is behind the tibia. tibia in the front, fibula in the back. tibia is also the name for a flute, could be called aulos, maybe it's a double reed instrument – that feels off topic. tibia is the 2nd largest bone in the body, connecting to the femur, the largest bone, just above it. shinbone and thighbone are probably a helpful way for my mind to remember this. shinbone - tibia; thighbone - femur; biggest bones in the body.
ok, now my mind was tempted to keep perusing that wikipedia page, and find out EVERYTHING there is to know about the tibia, and here is where i'd like to identify a possibly damaging behavioral instinct and correct it. what i started with was a lack of knowledge about about the medial of the ankle and the tibia. i don't need to know everything about these labels for parts of my body, i just need to know enough to understand where this book is trying to instruct me to massage myself. that's what i can successfully absorb and incorporate for today. some common language so we don't have to keep saying to teach other “yeah a little bit to the left, above that big thing there, behind that thinner bone there, no not quite, a little bit down below that lump.... you know the second half of the third breakdown after the bridge that uses the chorus chords?”
so the medial ankle is really part of the tibia, the very lowest part. for the past week, reading these words has really affected how i touch my body. it's a very new sensation for me to press into my bones, and feel how large they are, feel the softer ligaments and muscles that connect to them. i've also been thinking this way because of the way i feel for the baby in my partner's belly; i can press harder on the body than i generally feel is acceptable to do. some concern or caution typically holds me back from really exploring my body, and i would like to dull that concern and file away that caution. i'm succeeding at that by taking breaks from this writing to feel the bones in my neck and shoulders, to connect more literally with my pain.
it seems like there are always conditions present in my body – and in our society – that could lead to pain. how closely i observe those conditions has a tangible effect on how badly the system will break down later on. a thought plays like a distant, broken record: “you make time to record 1 hour long piano improvisations on the star spangled banner, surely you have time to stretch and exercise when your body calls out to you to do so!”
but this is wobbly territory for me, 'stop wasting time' is also a thought that floats close to the shore and that i think i could allow to float by unheeded much more often. i'm not going to find a satisfactory solution in short, well-worded phrases. and yet, why not keep trying? perhaps i just need to find the best short, well-worded phrase for me.
you can't waste time. you can listen more deeply. you can take care of future tony. you can't escape pain. you can balance.
ended 6.2.2021 - 18:58