I’ve spent most of the last month horizontal on a couch, either reading or watching television on my computer. A month ago, I re-injured – re-bulged? – the C-7 disc at the base of my neck. The effect was to have pain in all the muscles surrounding the right shoulder, and running down the right arm. When I say pain, I mean wake up in the middle of the night, hold your arm so not part of the shoulder moves, groan into the darkness, scrabble for painkillers – tramadol and lyrical – take twice the recommended dose, lie down and wait for fifteen minutes until you can speak kind of pain. The terrible thing is that it wasn’t as bad as the pain I had last year, with the one exception when I rolled over on my shoulder and ended up marching up and down the corridor imploring god to “Please make it stop.”
Still, not as bad as last year.
I write this not in search of sympathy – I secretly cringe when I read those people on social media clearly searching for sympathy, for attention, with their stories of woe.
I write this, really, as a reflection on pain, on my own experience of it. I write about it as a reflection on an aspect of life I haven’t had much of, except in the last year, when I’ve been incapacitated for almost nine months. It’s been a shock. A wake-up call. But of what?
This time, at the beginning, I could not lie on my sides, so I lay on my back. I could not write – my gainful employment – and I could not read much (the painkillers made my eyes go all googly).
So I watched TV, mostly.
The Walking Dead. The second and third seasons it really came to life. Kaboom.
Later I was able to read, so I tried out Lefebvre’s The French Revolution, which I wrote about yesterday.
It was kinda fun.
In a certain sense, it was a bit like a holiday, then. And I felt guilty for it. Guilty for luxuriating on the couch, guilty for not doing my work. A part of me felt like I was putting it on, like a child pretending to be sick so they don’t have to go to school.
As I heal, I’m experiences the opposite ambivalent feelings. Almost sadness that I’m healing. Now there will be no excuses. Now I won’t be able to lie around luxuriating. I won’t get to watch TV all day, read bits and pieces.
But there’s relief as well. Relief I’m back on my feet. Relief I’m here at the computer. Relief I’m back at work on The Stars Askew.
Last week I went through copyedits of Unwrapped Sky. It’s been sent off now to fly little book, fly. I won’t be able to change it again. Fingers crossed.
So I’m not horizontal anymore. I’m not fully healed, but I’m getting there. The Tramadol is almost gone. The Lyrica too.
Is there anything to learn from it all, besides platitudes? “Look after yourself.” “One must exercise and keep oneself strong.”
Pain is there to tell us we’re under threat, our organism is in some kind of peril. The peril I faced was too much sitting in front of a laptop. Writing as danger. I’ve heard others talk of the danger of writing, but they didn’t mean this kind.
The kind of danger I’m facing has a name: age. Your body wears out over time and then you die.
We’re mortal then. I’m mortal. We’re mortal because we’re material beings, imperfect to begin with, designed to live for fifty years or so. After thirty, things start to wear out. Little things start going wrong. If you’ve not stood up straight, or sat up straight, for long enough, your C-7 disc ruptures or bulges. Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.
There seems nothing to say about this but the banal platitude: enjoy it while you can; enjoy life on the couch. It won’t be there forever.