On the Nostalgia of Pain


So, I had my weekly massage yesterday and was disoriented—if not downright disappointed—that my masseuse could not locate the by-now familiar pain in the lumbar region of my spine. Repeated jabs in the relevant area failed to provoke the usual constellations in my visual cortex, which led me to actually begin asking the question: had the pain actually gone?

Now, all my beliefs in the beneficent effects of yoga notwithstanding, I was not actually prepared to be the recipient of a minor miracle of sorts. Having a chronic back pain fixed, and fairly quickly at that, was something that happened to other people (like dying or winning the lottery). But there it was—or there it wasn’t, rather.

I’m still skeptical about the whole thing, to be honest. Since yesterday, I’ve been dismissing the unexpected relief as a temporary by-product of newer aches and pains taking centerstage. I keep expecting the familiar twinge, the customary soreness, the usual throb. And it still hasn’t shown up, and it’s actually making me feel as if there’s something wrong.

All of which goes to show that human beings can be surprisingly, idiotically attached to their pain (physical or otherwise). We don’t like our physical, mental or emotional furniture being moved. Even if it’s old, tacky, useless or expensive, we like having it there because it’s part of the ambiance, part of the landscape, part of a legacy, part of our navigational system, and someday, by Jove, there will be a use for it and we’ll rue the day we gave it away.

All of which helps explain why part of me is celebrating the defeat of my back pain while part of me is disconcerted by it. After all, now that the pain is gone, what am I supposed to feel?

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