On Fear, Pain, and Change

I usually do my best thinking in the shower, I think because it is the one place that forces me to be frank with myself.  There I have to confront all sorts of imperfections and problems.  A little too much pudge here, toenails that need trimming, ingrown hairs.  I notice the small things like how it takes the skin on my hand just an almost imperceptible amount of time longer to spring back into place.  I can’t deny that I’m getting older, and that right now, in this moment, I’ll be the youngest I’ll ever be again.

It’s not that I’m afraid of change or the inevitable elephant in the room that comes along with examining change: the fact that one day, I’ll have changed out of this state, out of this body and will have moved on to different things.  I guess FDR was right.  I think what I’m most afraid of is fear.  More specifically, the control that fear has over us.

It’s strange, but I think I’m often afraid of being present.  This should be something that we all strive for right?  I shouldn’t walk around in a haze, texting, talking on the phone, or daydreaming about places far away. Instead should focus on every moment, every step, every breath.  But what I find often when I focus is pain.  Not in some angsty teenage way or in a chronic pain–thankfully I’m very happy with the majority of aspects in my life–this pain is different and is so very interconnected with life.   So, the trick is how not to focus on the pain, how to move beyond it, how to wrench the control from its cold hands and cast it off with a loud guffaw.

I think that Maude (of Harold and Maude fame) was right, people do enjoy being dead.  I see it all the time.  People like to move from moment to moment involved in so many things that it numbs them to being present.  Multitasking seems to be the worst culprit here.  We often look at it as the epitome of effectiveness, but it’s far from that.  I have to watch myself with things like IM chats and facebook and opening too many internet windows at once, or else I skitter from moment to moment and don’t commit to giving friends and family and genuine people I feel connected to, the time they deserve (I suppose this includes myself too).  I suppose the same thing goes for the projects and such that I work on when I’m on the clock.

Just before my shower I read a brief short story that was meant to be graphic, visceral and intense.  It was all of these things and caused me to squirm just a bit in my seat.  I liked it in all its gore and disgusting grossness.  I liked how it ushered from within me a response that was somewhat repulsive.  After I read it I perused how culture measured it up.  This was accomplished through the comments left by other readers.  Ah Comments, the pulse of the internet.  Several people mentioned passing out at various parts or reading the story to others and watching them pass out.  Oh, if I were but so lucky.

I’ve only passed out once.  It was opiate induced and immediately following some faciomaxillary surgery to replace a tooth that genetics decided I didn’t need.  I was alone in our small home and I remember feeling an intense feeling of thirst.  I stood up from my bed and walked to my kitchen.  I remember opening the cabinet that held the glasses and feeling a wave of coolness pass over my body.  I breathed deep.  I think I realized that something was happening, that something wasn’t right when the white rushing noise began.  My peripheral vision was also fading and I began to focus, intently, on the mugs on the shelf.  I felt that if I could only breathe and think of them that I could hang on.

After succumbing to the darkness I must have fallen into bathroom.  I must have hit my head on something because it rang, though didn’t really hurt.  I quickly got back up and resumed my life, but first I got a drink.

I know that I’m afraid of pain, afraid of the control it exerts on me.  Afraid of how it makes me clench my teeth, makes me unwillingly tear up, makes me cringe.  Whenever I have any interaction with anesthesia it’s negative (a curse of my red hair, they say).  I wake up mid surgery or metabolize the drugs like it’s going out of style.  Novocaine lasts only about 35 minutes on me, no matter the dosage.  I’ll likely go through childbirth without any shots because they won’t work.  I can almost guarantee it.  So, if I focus on the present and the inevitable pain and suffering that is intimately bound with it how do I cope with the pain that follows?  I try to focus on my breathing, on watching rocks grow, or by tapping a rhythm out with my fingers (you’d be surprised by how ubiquitous music is in our society).

How will I ever get beyond pain and the fear of failure that comes with it?  I wonder.

1 Comment

  1. cityrat said,

    February 22, 2009 at 3:04 am

    I don’t believe I’ve ever passed out. Hard to even imagine that reading something would make someone faint.

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