Creative Non-Fiction: The Nuances of Pain and Soul
When it comes to chronic pain, I am more than the vessel that carries me.
When I was born there was not enough milk to nourish me. I cried and cried and cried as it dried. Did I truly cry of hunger, or the aching I foresaw? Thirty days of crying, thirty days of aching. Thirty years of struggling, thirty years of mourning. What was never mine.
When I was six, I truly felt boundless. I was running after colourful butterflies and sprightly grasshoppers, carefree. Laughing and twirling under the sun’s warming eye. If my body was a vessel of a tiny little girl, my aura was expansive, elastic. What was pain? Perhaps the occasional bruising that healed magically in a flash. Today I have bruisings forever inked on my skin like permanent, irreversible tattoos. One of a burn that kept on burning for weeks now turned to ash. One of a cut that closed but still remains and reminds.
When I was eight, a child still learning self-identity and that of others, still grounding herself to a soil foreign to her but one she hoped to call home, I was told my family and I were going to move to a soil even more foreign. I cried and cried and cried as the airplane flew across the ocean. I cried and cried and cried weeks after, finding no solace in anything but the release of my tears. I don’t know what I was crying about in particular. My grandparents. My friends. My teachers. My grounding not yet realized. My self-identity more fragile than ever. The inner knowing that something unfortunate was imminent. I still don’t feel quite grounded yet, irregardless of where I live. Perhaps it’s not even a place I’m grounding myself to. Perhaps it’s my beloved, wherever we may end up together. Perhaps it’s everything and everyone bringing light into my life, and distance is of no matter. Perhaps it’s the vessel that carries my soul, still both attuning to one another. Perhaps I don’t need grounding, I just need to feel free.
The nuance of pain can start out subtly. Like when suddenly I could not sleep during the night but would until the afternoon. I would rouse but not be able to muster enough strength to get up and get on with my day. Instead I would daydream of floating above the fluffy, elusive clouds or gazing at the radiant stars on top of a downy hill or swimming with the dolphins somewhere tropical without restraint. Always as some kind of energy not bound by any kind of vessel, morphing into anything, everything, and nothing but still ever-present and never-ending. At night I would wail like a banshee at nothing, into nothing. I couldn’t understand why, but I knew I was raging and hurting.
When the nuance of pain started out subtly I didn’t feel the aching yet. Or, I didn’t distinguish its nuances yet. I also didn’t know that when a body shifts and aches and never stops, it’s telling you there’s a culprit behind it, a root needing water and nourishment. I thought others felt that way. I thought it was the norm. Questioning it, others would tell me, it’s what happens to bodies, just accept it and move on with your life. It took me years to unlearn how detrimental it is to accept defeat and my body as something forever aching and breaking and there’s nothing that can be done when there are others who live vibrantly. If they can live without the perpetual pain, maybe so can I someday?
It took me years to learn the nuances of pain and how to make my body feel comfortable and safe while it’s aching. When lethargy is overpowering, I sleep. When a conversation between someone is overwhelming, we stop. When the pain is excruciating and urgent, I seek help. When the only safe place are these four walls, I stay. Even healing is no easy feat. When a body stops breaking and begins its healing, there’s an abrupt surge of many complex processes shifting and working together to make it whole again. That kind of surge is too much too fast to handle for a body already so vulnerable. For the soul in a burdened vessel, it can be crushing. Hope. Patience. Knowing. That freedom will someday follow suit. All this appeases it. Keeps it wishing and dreaming and anticipating excitedly.
Between the nuances of pain, there are nuances of soul. It’s impossible for life to just be pain and no cracks of light, no peak experiences, no pauses of contentment and calm, no soul. Early in my life, I found a lot of it in photography and dancing. Photography was my getaway to another realm with alternate stories I could tell my way. Dancing was my escapade from melancholy and anger, something that would restore the balance of my thoughts, my feelings, my peace. When I could no longer dance, I still had music to feed my soul. I still have music and writing today, both elating me, escaping me from my vessel if only for a moment at a time.
Sometimes I wake up and for a split second there’s stillness. No pain, no aching, just quietude within my body and all around me. This must be what freedom feels like, I think to myself. I remember it before it slips away. I’ll recall it when I’ll be freed from the bounds and aching of my vessel. If I can feel it between the pauses and escapes, surely it will come after the healing without letting up? I hold on to the feeling. I strive towards it. I keep on going.
I look at myself in the mirror. I peer into my eyes, the faint but fiery glint where a sliver of my soul can be found. I tell my soul, you are more than your vessel. My soul is more than the bounds and aching of my vessel. I tell my body, you are brilliant and beautiful and you will stop breaking. My body will be in synch with my soul, both becoming truly boundless. Hope. Patience. Knowing. What was never mine begins to be.