writing the hurt

graffiti of hands forming the letters o u c hThese days hurt. These days it takes me hours to get out of bed, months to stretch enough to risk putting my right leg on the floor, years to walk the dog half a block and back home again. During our walk, I stop repeatedly to bend over double, easing the pain in my leg. I stand up again, I take deep breaths, I keep moving. I know it’s necessary for me to take this walk if I want the rest of the day to get better.

After that first walk, though, time changes, de-elasticizes, returns to something that feels more like normal. After that first walk, something shifts and opens. I have to show my body (yes, my own body; this pain body that is mine) that I’m willing to walk in on with the fire. After that first walk, I lie face-down on my bed again and let the muscles and nerves relax (such as they do). Sometimes I take the bedspread into my teeth and chew. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I just breathe and scratch the puppy’s neck — she comes in to check on me, to be where I am. She is patient, no longer tries to wake me at 6 or 6:30 — we have a new normal now.

I don’t want this to be my normal. I’ve lost my morning writing time because it takes so long to get out of bed and get to a comfortable enough state to be able to sit at the computer or sit with the notebook. I am watching too much silly tv these days — I have (re)discovered what tv is good for: occupying the mind. When I am pushed into the bright colors and constant stream of someone else’s story, I do not feel as much pain. TV as pain medication; sometimes it’s necessary.

I don’t know this pain body. It’s not yet familiar to me, even after a month. I feel like I’m walking in someone else’s skin, trying to move their skeleton — it’s not mine; that’s why it doesn’t fit. That’s why my hip hurts so much, right? How could it be my body dealing with this? Why, after a year of powerful re-embodying, am I having to shape myself inside these new bones now? There’s a heavy and consistent nausea riding just at the top of my chest, at the lowest part of my throat, that feels fully connected to this ribbon of pain/ache/weirdness that has (for this moment) taken over my right leg. Why wouldn’t I be nauseous in response to this embodied disembodiment? It’s been a long time since I’ve so strongly wanted both completely out of and more fully into my own skin.

I am thinking about the embodiment of identity. How do we stretch our creative selves to accommodate unchosen or unwelcome changes in how we do our work, how we write or otherwise create? How do we allow ourselves to hold on to who we know we are when we can no longer do what we have consistently defined ourselves as able to do?

Every one of us has to engage this question, repeatedly, in our lives. Our sense of ourselves is always shifting, even as we (maybe you don’t do this, but I do) try to hold on tight, make ourselves certain. But we are uncertain. We are always in flux. How many times will I have to learn this lesson? Maybe, if I’m very lucky, a hundred hundred more times.

Yes, there is this pain, and yes, I am lonely, and yes, I am scared about the future. Also, I am in a space of sheer delight and wonder about my life and love. How to allow both realities to exist in flow against each other, to feel the pain shunting itself alongside the joy, to allow the joy to ribbon through and around the pain?

My prompts are few and far between in this just right now. For the workshops, I come up with ideas. For me, they look like this: Just sit. Just write. Just take as many minutes as are necessary to write out your three daily pages. Get up and stretch if you have to, lie down on the floor and take the notebook with you. Yesterday it took me an hour to get them done. Ridiculous, but done. Painful, but I know I have to take that walk if I want the rest to flow.

Keep writing. Keep breathing all the pain and all the magnificence that is your very own tender body. Thank you for the bone and brea(d)th of your words.


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