As I mentioned in It’s What I Go To School For, I’ve been reading a bit more since living on the narrow boat. The first two books I read were ‘In Search for Happiness’ (Dalai Llama) and ‘Pain – the science and culture of why we hurt’ (Marni Jackson). I bought the first one with the idea of being more ‘zen’ (whatever that means) in my new gypsy lifestyle, and thought this would give me a good picture for that. The second I bought on a whim in a charity shop because Oliver Sacks had a quote on the front and I’d already read a book by this fella on Migraine. Initially I thought of these as distinct topics but somehow their paths kept intersecting; the landscapes not so different, after all.
In the Pain book, she lists a top 10 of ways we humans experience pain. The list includes several that are mental health oriented as well as the more typical, ‘purely’ physical ones (although I doubt that for chronic pain this is entirely possible). While I was not at all surprised – in fact quite chuffed the list had been thought about in this way – that mental health was included, it got me thinking about the spectrum of pain we experience and how we talk about pain. The Dalai Llama also talks a lot about about pain in his book; about how it’s a natural part of life, the same way pleasure is, and through these two extremes happiness could be a sort of midway ground.
So then I started thinking about how pain has led me to where I am now. Divorce, unsuccessful job interviews, changes in friendships, mourning and a sprained ankle all pop into my mind. All of these have the option for lingering pain, that can rear its ‘and-you-thought-you-were-rid-of-me’ ugly face at any time. These are just my experiences; I’m not trying to dunk a dog turd in deep fried sugar syrup and tell you your pain is definitely ‘for a reason’; it’s still a dog turd.
I remember going to see a counsellor a couple of times before I ended my last relationship. I was really confused – in whole lot of pain, I would say – and wanted some clarity. She asked me to envisage my life if I stayed with him, and then if I didn’t. I’ve always had quite an active imagination so was able to paint her a landscape of both options quite clearly. Evidently this isn’t what she was expecting so neither that exercise, nor her sessions in their entirety seemed to help that much. I sat on my comfy chair and she sat on hers for two hour-long sessions and that was that. My moment of utter clarity came to me a few months later, as I talk briefly about in 2019: A Space Odyssey.
I’m grateful for the pain of separation, the practical upheaval of two and a half house moves in nine months and the heartbreaking changes in friendships, because it helped – and still helps – me think creatively about how I want my future to be. It made me realise the relationship I wanted to be in, which has played a massive role in helping me shape my future landscape (more about him on a future blog, I think…)
Everybody hurts and for some, all the time. For the last few weeks I have felt I can have a conversation with my health, not just a daily screaming match, which gives me some space for gratitude. At the same time, the Dalai Llama has encouraged me to realise that the future will include pain as well as pleasure and of different kinds, so we have not yesterday or tomorrow, but today to creatively find happiness.
Both pain and pleasure
Are hard things to measure
When there’s always hurt
And you feel so inert
The hope for the sometimes
The space that it finds
To open the window
And look for tomorrow
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog. I’d love to hear if you’ve had any similar reflections. Subscribe yourself to get emails when i write more blogs (roughly every two weeks)