Even before this happened, I was a reluctant inhabitant of my physical body. I railed against its inevitable (if as yet largely imperceptible) decline, the stealthy, inexorable loss of elasticity, pigment, resilience, strength. It felt like punishment, to house a thriving being inside such a fleeting encasement.
Once the pain wedged itself like a sword against the soft tissue behind my right shoulder blade, my resentment against this squishy, maddeningly innervated form developed into a full-blown hatred. Not a day passed that I didn’t wish to be quit of it and its helpless petulance, demanding more food than my nausea would allow me to eat, more hours of sleep than the unceasing agony would permit me to gather.
Long after I stopped needing it to, my body persisted in its futile efforts to guard my upper torso from a danger from without, locking down on the surrounding muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones, unwittingly aiding the torture persevering from within. Even now, the vestiges of this maladaptive response pull at my neck, my ribs, my shoulder muscles and back, and today in particular, my left shoulder, under which a familiar pebble has knotted the surrounding muscles and ratcheted up my resting pain component.
But even on a “bad” day, like today, it’s practically nothing compared to how I felt before. I have a new ease and delight in being on the inside of my body. It is now joyful to increase my spiritual entropy, to evenly distribute my consciousness throughout my physical form, no concentration localized in or gates blocking off one particular area or another. It would seem that I was in a relatively peaceful and serene state of mind, and in fact, strictly relatively speaking, that would be true.
But then, out of nowhere, surprising me as much as the clueless old bat tentatively maneuvering her Camry down the street in front of me, a slice of rage cuts through and I pound my hand down on my horn hard enough to make it hurt, perversely causing her to slam on the brakes before realizing where it came from. Even more perverse is my own reaction to this sudden display of temper, that it is pointless, that it will not make the hesitant woman in front of me suddenly become a capable driver, and that it will not make me feel any better even if it does magically elicit the desired response, which, of course, it doesn’t.
A similar flash of fury escaped in the parking lot at my physical therapist’s earlier that morning; I opened the driver’s side door and went to put my keys in my bag, only to have the door slam back shut, requiring me to unlock it, pull the latch, and kick it back open with my foot, which I did with far more force than necessary.
It feels strange to be so grounded and still strike out at the world around me with such ready anger, my smooth surface belying its permeability to the sharp knives below that shoot out to slice at anything or anyone that gets too close to me before disappearing back beneath, leaving no trace of how or where they slipped through.
Why? Why is this happening? I’m free, I keep thinking; it’s over. The nightmare, that I have been revisiting as I read back through the posts from Aspects I and II, has finally ended. I’m glad there is a record, for the visceral immediacy of the daily torture I underwent has already lost much of its bite; I need to go back and read my words and remind myself how awful it truly was, how horrific an experience I have weathered.
I was speaking with a friend a few nights ago about my temper issues, and about how I was having trouble concentrating on my studies, and he sarcastically (and accurately) pointed out that it might have a little something to do with recovering from a year and a half of constant pain followed by a drastic surgical procedure to relieve it. I admitted this was undoubtedly correct, but it wasn’t until this morning, having forced myself to stay in bed past 7 AM, curled up around my dim-witted tabby cat as she hissed softly with pleasure, that I realized how true the statement was.
Here I’ve been thinking that I’m “just” recovering from major surgery. But as he and Momma Ape and pretty much all of my fellow apes have been insisting, I am recovering from much, much more than that. I am also recovering from fifteen months of brutal, unrelenting, physical torture. It has left me in a significant sleep and nutrition deficit, not to mention the gaping psychological wounds over which scars have just barely started to form, scars that are far larger and uglier than the two-inch vertical seam over my recently reduced scapula that has already begun to fade.
No wonder I’m so tired, no matter how much sleep I get. No wonder my nerves are frayed, my temper short, my tolerance worn thin. All of these many months I could not let myself feel the enormity of what was happening to me for more than a few minutes here and there. I dared not spare the energy; it was all I could do to keep moving forward, step by shuffling step, chin down, eyes pinned only on the next few inches I planned to traverse. It was unthinkable to expend more than the briefest periods of time – most of it here on this blog – trying to get my mental arms around what was happening, never mind a open an investigation into what it might be costing me to endure it.
Now that the crisis has passed, I am acting as though the fire that ravaged my internal landscape never happened. As though the broad swath it razed through the deepest parts of my existence, my sense of purpose, my sense of self, didn’t exist. As though I could simply turn my back on all of it, close some door between me and it, and just walk away.
Now I realize that I am still in it, in fact still pretty much dead center in this blasted countryside, and that I have much, much farther to walk before it is behind me. And I don’t want to. I don’t want to deal with it. I don’t want to be here. Haven’t I been through enough? keeps reverberating inside my head. It seems cruel that as soon as I started to feel better, I was dragged back under by the psychological fallout of having labored in unmitigated agony for so long.
My physical therapist is right; I should not be working right now. It will be a long, long time before I am physically recovered, not just from having a fistful of crystallized scar tissue scraped away and having my shoulder blade subsequently fractured to prevent it from coming back, but from the physiological and mental damage resulting from the year-plus period of unremitting torture that preceded it.
And as long as it takes my system to recover, it will be even longer, I fear, before the psychological wounds have begun to close over and recede. It’s time I admitted that I can’t simply bounce back from this. It’s too much. And I can’t will myself into changing that. And as angry and frustrated and sad as that makes me, I cannot make it go away simply by wishing it, no matter how desperately.
As if I didn’t know, as if it hasn’t been hammered home time and again that the world is as it is and not as we want it to be. Of course I know, I know, already, that there’s no way around it. I need rest, both physical and spiritual, and much, much more of it than I’ve been willing to admit. It’s not going to be enough just slow down. I need to come to a stop.
No more lab work. No more commitments. No more space-filling. If I have to be confined to this apartment, so be it. It is beautiful here, a calm expanse of quiet and light, as different as it could possibly be from where I lived before, both in appearance and circumstance. And I need it; I need this physical and temporal space to heal and to rest. I may be resentful, and even less willing to have that need than I am to fulfill it, but it is right here, in front of me, both the vacancy and the means by which to occupy it.
I don’t know why that’s so hard to accept.
I don’t know why any of this is so hard to accept, as patently true as all of it is. I don’t know why I have so much trouble taking events at face value. Maybe it’s because I still heartily resent being surprised by them. I didn’t expect this part of the experience, even though I should have, and I am impotently angry about it even as I concede its inevitability.
But I just want to be well. I’ve been so unwell for so long, and I do just want to step through a threshold and shut a door behind me; lock all this away and stop having to stare it in the face every time I have a moment to myself. And maybe that’s why I’ve been resisting coming to a stop, because if I do that, if I finally allow that to happen, then there will be nothing left to do but turn and face the calamity that has occurred full-on, and let the gathering emotional winds rip through me and drag me where they will. And I’m scared, of what I will do, and think, and be, while that is going on, and I don’t want to go through it.
But again, as always, it doesn’t matter what I want.
And so, this morning, finally, I am allowing myself to come to rest. And now I must wait for whatever will happen next.
Congratulations. You’re doing it right. Know that you are deeply loved by every member of your Ape family. We are here beside you, behind you – wherever you need us to be.