Posted by & filed under Alexander Technique, torn meniscus.

“We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full.”

Marcel Proust

Pain is ephemeral to me. It’s hard to describe. When it’s gone…I forget how it felt, how bad it was. I just remember that I had been in pain. I vaguely remember abject pain–after my laminoplasty–the neurosurgery performed on my cervical spine. I remember the agony of the bone marrow biopsy I underwent. I remember moaning over and over “ça me fait mal…that is hurting me!” The hematologist was francophone so…all my moaning and groaning was en français. Weirdly enough, changing languages was kind of a comfort to me. It took me out of my everyday NYC scene. Can I describe the quality of those bouts of severe pain?  Well I can say that I would wish a bone marrow biopsy on my worst enemy. As for my post-op neurosurgery pain, what I really remember was the bliss of drinking my first coffee after coming out of the anesthesia. I had begged one of the doctor’s looking in at me for a coffee at Starbucks. He asked me where Starbucks was, and I giggled as I told him that there was one at the cafeteria and one on the ground floor of the hospital. So he brought me a cup. It was heavenly…even though I was so out of it and shaky that I spilled it all over my brand new neck brace and my hospital gown. I wanted so badly to thank that lovely doctor, but in my morphine-induced haze, his name slipped out of my memory. I will never forget that act of kindness!

So now I am in another kind of pain. Pain-wise, well, it’s nothing in the scheme of things. What it is is constant, all-the-time pain. It’s a different kind of stress because it’s been going on since July. It wears me down. However, the quality is different since my surgery. Before it impinged greatly on how I could move. I couldn’t walk much and when I did it was in a funny way. I favored the other leg so both legs hurt. Thinking about Alexander Technique ramifications: I couldn’t do a normal lie down with my leg bent at my knee. I had to extend my leg with a pillow under it. I could not do any chair work whatsoever. Since the surgery, my wound hurts. Scar tissue. Inflammation. And also all my leg muscles are weak, as they atrophied as soon as the surgery happened. When I do my exercises in p/t and at home, well my muscles become really sore, much like after doing mega-weights on leg press at the gym for the first time ever. My limited walking around town to do my errands now wipes me out. On the Alexander Technique front there is good news: well, now I can manage a regular table turn, and wonderfully, I can do chair turns. Next up for me: monkey alone and monkey while putting hands on my teacher.


Impermanence (Photo credit: Philofoto)

I am upset because I have to postpone my return to work for a few weeks. I’m extremely bummed out by this. The healing process is very slow. So I must embrace the slow pace and just trust that eventually I will be fine. And that the remembrance of this pain will fade like the other really severe pain I have experienced in my life.

Pain teaches me lots. In a way it’s kind of a friend as it is a constant companion. “Hey pain, how are you doing?” It helps me examine my use of self. It slows me down. I feel that am really now learning how to inhibit and direct. I must really think about how my body is moving. It puts things in perspective for me. It teaches me to really appreciate not having pain at all. It is clear to me that I am indeed getting better slowly. I have much better range of motion. My muscles are getting stronger. I think pain this time around is more immediate to me because I am so much more aware of my psycho-physical self through my exposure to AT.

So, one of my preoccupations now is fitting in as many AT lessons as I can, despite the circumstances. I am greedy for AT! I ache to start training again.

This pain is giving me distance and objectivity for all aspects of my life. I find that I am stepping back and re-evaluating everything I do. I am re-evaluating all my relationships. It’s like my pain and I are throwing up a bunch of life pick up sticks and they are now falling in the most correct places.

There is a prayer pronounced in synagogue, the Mi She-berach. This particular blessing is recited on behalf of a sick person. I do have dear friends saying Mi She-berach for me right now every Shabbat! Terrific, right? I am being taken care of in many ways.

6 Responses to “Pain”

  1. magdalenaportmann

    What a very moving post, Rena! I love what you say here:
    “It’s like my pain and I are throwing up a bunch of life pick up sticks and they are now falling in the most correct places.” Thank you for this! You write well – don’t stop…

      • magdalenaportmann

        I don’t know whether I know – but the pick up sticks resonate with me – describing exactly my experiences over the least two years dealing with illness. My illness has been teaching me what the pain is teaching you. I become despondent at times – your posts help keeping me on track.
        The sticks – I imagine Mikado sticks…..
        I also find interesting what you say about language – how a change of language can change the experience. I remember experimenting with this notion in my early years of having AT lessons – using my mother tongue instead of English. It did change the experience – made it more my own – reduced the distance, but also brought things into sharper focus. Your post touches on many things – I love the way you write – with a light touch.


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