“From Ashes” by Jairo Alzate at Unpslash
Thank you for joining Pooja and I as we celebrated our and Outspoken-ish’s birthday last month! Our first newsletter took on and debunked myths around growing up and growing old (read it here, if you haven’t already). In response, our friend asked, “But this body... what to do with this body?” Our upcoming newsletter thinks through that question by way of the experience of pain--the chronic as well as the fleeting kinds. P takes the lead this time around, tackles labor, fracture, vertigo, and also a dark comedy.
You see, I do not seem to remember being in pain until I am in pain again. This feels odd, almost a betrayal that I habitually enact against myself. Even a quick glance at my typing hand will show: a burn on the wrist, where the heated grill of a kitchen oven braised my skin. A deep cut between the thumb and the index finger that has morphed into a discolored patch. I have lived with this cut nearly all my life--a shard from a broken nail polish bottle entered my flesh when I was little. A swelling on my middle finger. I was playing hide and seek with my cousin at age two, and she, a child too, mistakenly shut the door on my finger and squashed it. The skin is a faithful documentarian. The surface of my body has archived wounds even when time has gotten in the way of their sharp fizzing sensation.
What we call healing is a momentary loss in feeling. I immediately recall what it is to be cut the instant I am cut again. A cut or a burn, at least of the common varieties, needs injurious stimuli from outside our bodies. Gashes and wounds are our surroundings impinging on us and transforming us every day. But our bodies, too, are more than capable of producing, reproducing, and multiplying discomforting and pernicious stimulants.
Writing, typing, moving the computer mouse for hours on end--necessities in my chosen profession--have made my wrist sensitive. It is not exactly the kind of pain that flashes for a moment and then vanishes, unlike a deep cut or a small burn, but a niggling feeling my body produces every time I return to my desk. This feeling can turn into something unmanageable if, as a friend who is deep into the wellness culture told me, I don’t ‘protect’ my wrist. I bought an ergonomic mouse pad and felt good for a bit about finding a work-around for a constraining condition.
I, and I am sure many of us, intuitively think of pain as a constraint. My literary interests and academic training have exposed me to writers (just look here, here, and here, for example) and disability studies scholars who question such an assumption. They have recalibrated parts of my conscious brain. And yet it would be dishonest not to admit that the desire for a mind-body that would not hurt haunts me. None of us can know such a mind-body. And yet.
Pain is particular to our embodied lives, and constitutes us, touching the breadth of our experiences. So, September at Outspoken-ish is pain processing month. We hope you will be with us when we return with the newsletter in a couple of weeks.