For some reason I’ve been in pain all day. Lately, I’ve been noticing that the pain I experience on a regular basis has various different qualities to it. For example, when I get a massage I feel pain from being stretched, and pain from when my therapist manipulates muscles that haven’t been stimulated properly and have locked into place. I can differentiate these two types of pain from a third type of pain which is simply muscle soreness. When a muscle is sore from exertion and it gets pressed on, it kind of makes a sighing sound in my sensory perception, but when a muscle which is damaged from stress and has locked up, it doesn’t sigh so much as scream with the stimulation. It’s the difference between waking up to heavy rain and waking up to a foghorn.
Today’s pain, however, is unfortunately not of the physical kind. My heart has been in pain today. Like my muscles, my heart experiences different qualities of pain, too. There is the excruciating pain of loss; the soul crushing impotence of knowing that what was there before will never be again. Not so many months ago when I was holding Amber’s limp and feverish body in my arms, when it seemed like the doctor and I simply could not move fast enough to neutralize her rapidly shifting symptoms and I thought I would never see her play again, I experienced this type of pain. Sould crushing. That’s about what it is. You feel as if you will never have the strength to move again, as if the very seems of your body are being ripped apart from the inside.
There is purification in the pain of loss. In the moment, it is so extreme that you cannot comprehend ever passing through it. But, like all things, it does indeed pass and when your eyes clear on the other side of it, you feel purged. It is as if by reaching into the depths of sorrow and experiencing its emptiness, your body then opens up to the fulness of all that is and all that will become.
Unfortunately, today’s pain is not the pain of loss either. Today’s pain is the pain of numbness. I hate the numbness more than I hate loss or injury. There is no pain to me which is more unbearably maddening than the pain of numbness. You see, unlike my other experiences of pain, the numbness has no cause, no source, and no foreseeable end. Moreover, it never really comes to the surface and expresses itself. Rather, it seethes just below my skin. I can feel it in the back of my eyelids and behind my breastbone. It makes me want to pierce myself. Sometimes I think if I could only puncture my flesh that the pain would seep out along with my other fluids. Sometimes I think if I could only puncture my flesh that I could confuse my body into thinking that my pain was local, finite, focused.
Perhaps the most difficult part of dealing with the numbness is that it often takes me by surprise. It is very easy to think that perhaps I am just hungry, or perhaps I am just sleep deprived, or maybe it is the weather. But the numbness won’t go away with a nap or a snack. A beautiful day with crisp air and distant mountains peering out from a curtain of early morning mist will not wash the pain clean. It is only when I have tended to my every physical need, and yet the pain still lingers, that I recognize it for what it is.
Today I am in pain. My heart is being crushed inside my chest with a suffocating, nauseating numbness. I only wish I knew what to do to free myself from it.