There wasn’t any fear or dread when the thought hit me this morning. Pain was on my mind. Emotional pain and heartache. And I was anticipating it, inviting it even. Why the hell would a person do that? No, I’m no masochist; I don’t even enjoy pain in the slightest, but I can endure a lot of it actually because I know something in particular about the nature of pain by experience. It’s what follows the pain that I’m after.
Picture a surfer. Not just a typical, recreational surfer. He is one who breathes the salt, lives in barrels of blue-green awe, canopied by seaweed. Surfing is like a family member to him, he does it so often. Being so used to the rhythms of the ocean, the cycle of the tides, that after another day of surfing ecstasy, he feels the day start to inhale, the waves start their process of receding down to calmness. He already knows it’s going to happen, because it has to. There’s no stopping it.
Maybe, in his youth, he became upset when he had to stop surfing. Maybe he threw a tantrum because he was on a roll one day, but the waves stopped coming and he couldn’t do just one more run. Now, much wiser, he encourages the water to fall flat as it naturally does each night. He has an urgent feeling for the waves to stop as soon as they can and calls for them to go away, to sleep quickly. It’s not that he wants to stop surfing but rather he knows he can’t do anything about the way the water changes. He accepts it. This is because he’s become wholly familiar with the sweetness that is to come back in the morning without fail.
A woman who is about to bear a child and has done so a time or two before is as wise as the surfer. The first time she was nearing the end of her ninth month of pregnancy she wanted to be a mother with the desire of ten thousand hearts, yet she was apprehensive. She probably had wished that the unbearable pain would never come. But come it would. That maiden voyage through the laboring process made her writhe, fight her own body’s process that had happened that way to all mothers since mankind came to be. She was fearful.
Now, with her second, third, or perhaps even seventh child, she isn’t put off by the labor; she, in fact, wants the agony of each and every single contraction. For every time she feels her abdomen push against its overstretched uterus, she understands that is one moment closer to meeting a stranger that she will treasure with so much joy that it can’t actually be articulated.
I used to get bronchitis frequently when I was younger. I remember my anxiety would soar as the time of year that I was most prone to getting it approached. I let my mood drop and tried begging out to the sky for it not to happen but it was going to come no matter what I did to struggle against it; that’s just the way my lungs and bronchial tubes were.
Later in life, I didn’t allow my thoughts to care about whether or not I’d get sick. I just let myself ease into whatever sickness came and I remember thinking, with each hack of mucus, Oh, it’s going to be so great when I can hack more phlegm. Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t like snot or mucus but I’d come to know that every cough was one less cough I’d have to push out. And I was content with the thought of how wonderful it was going to be to breathe deeply again, with clarity, in time. Time would come soon enough.
Things are smooth for me recently. There’s a fuck of a lot of laughing and creativity going on too. A lot of great, new music-listening. Work is more or less caught up. Loved ones are in good spirits. I’ve had time for my hobbies and to read to and play with my children. The winter season is mild. I feel closer now to my best friends and my students than I ever thought was possible. Although I know that relationships and moods aren’t an exact science, not like tides, birthing, or bronchitis, I’m pretty damn sure the smoothness of things is going to become rough again. That’s the cycle I know well now and I’ve traveled the circumference of that merry-go-round eight thousand and thirty-seven times. I cannot wait for my life to turn into literal sandpaper. Shower the shit down on me. I’m ready for it. That way, this elation I’ve been feeling lately will come back again and be that much more enjoyable in the aftermath of the anguish.
Devour me, pain. Take chunks out of me. Make me cry until I scream. Do your worst. I’m smart enough to know you have to come but your cruel ass has to hit the bricks eventually as well. Oh, no. I hope I haven’t gone too far. I hope none of my friends feel obliged to pick a fight with me on purpose now.
“How poor are they that have not patience!
What wound did ever heal but by degrees?
Though other things grow fair against the sun,
Yet fruits that blossom first will first be ripe.”
-Iago, Othello, Act 2, Scene 3, William Shakespeare