Pain can be good for you, so they say.
I don’t mean the chronic where-the-fcck’d-this-come-from sting of sciatica or a piece of shrapnel raping the comfort of your days. That shit’s just soul sucking until you get a physiological fix up (or just a fix of the pharmaceutiful genre, which ultimately isn’t the answer, unless your five year plan is drug dependency peppered with hostile outbreaks in rage, and ultimately a tolerance landing you back on a nice big plate of ground zero amplified pain soaked in a glaze of withdrawal symptoms.) No, I don’t mean chronic pain.
I mean that sudden, jarring pain or discomfort that rockets you back to reality.
A friend and fellow pain sufferer said last week,
“Once you get over the nervous sensation that accompanies pain, pain doesn’t hurt”.
And I realized, he’s not wrong. I’m not sure if you go numb all over or just acclimate (I personally turn into a bit of a douche when it’s bad enough). But the thing about pain is that – inevitably, like the good Buddha posits – it’s gonna happen. How long it happens and how much you suffer, however, is up to you. And it all depends on how quickly you look for a solution the second it hits. As much as this winter running is getting to me, I’m learning this in a huge way myself. I’ve got uneven hips, a scoliosis, and a herniated disc. How do I deal with it? By doing the exercises I’m supposed to (when I’m willing). And by running in the iciest, most inimical terrain that I can the rest of the time (more often than that other thing). This might seem counterintuitive – and even I didn’t get it, the “why?” to begin with. But this IFLS article helped me kinda realize just another reason why I actively venture out on this constant pleasure/pain quest.
I thought for a long time that I was just going after the “runner’s high”. (But then why wasn’t I running indoors?). And then I thought it was just to get the fresh air. While neither of those are wrong, it wasn’t until this snow-on-toppa-snow hit that I ventured into the depths of my jogging addiction – to find a new layer. And that layer’s the pain and discomfort I get. Lately, it’s my hips and leg muscles that are giving me grief. And that discomfort likely comes from my poor posture and poor form (made worse by my lack of doing said P.T. exercises or returning to therapy). How’s that good? A.) Because it can be fixed if I fix it by facing it head on and B.) Because when you’re facing a land head on paved by Queen Elsa herself, you face your problem head on because you can’t afford to be even slightly off-point – which forces you to fix your form, posture, and thusly… pain. Not saying this is a blanket fix for all – but having worked in P.T. before (yes, ironic since I’m bad about doing my own exercises – like a respiratory therapist who smokes, I suppose), I tend to think it is a lotta the problem a lotta the time with a lotta lazy people.
(Try selling that whole “the fix is free and it only costs a little effort” to a cranky patient, though.)
A friend once talked about leaving one boot on after a long day of snowboarding. It hurt, was swollen, tight, and all around painful. So his buddy asked him why he left it on. “To feel the relief after I take it off – I’m waiting to enjoy it.” In a way, that’s the way my running goes – except on a more moment-to-moment level. Every painful step follows the relief of lifting off and a flood of endorphins too – that’s if I’m focused. Two days ago, I was like a clown on stilts and crystal meth whenever I started to think about something aside from the task at hand – but the moment I clicked back into mindfulness, I was badassing through this impossible layer upon layer of just-asking-to-eat-it-and-stumble-home-with-a-hockey-grin. You go into that “pain don’t hurt” place. And on a meta-level I keep on coming back for more of that keep-stepping-through-pain thing. Because the moment you’re in that state, there’s this transcendent god-like moment – an experience that cannot be aptly translated into the symbols diction tries to provide for it. The irony is something that’s more than just the “pain makes us appreciate pleasure”. During this ultimately opiate inducing act, there’s something happening during the slow rip of the metaphorical band-aid itself. A kind of cardiovascular masochistic moksha.
It’s like it becomes easier to blissfully transcend above – if below there’s suffering or the imminent threat of it.
Guess that’s why I keep coming back for more.
Who knows, maybe that pleasure/pain thing’s my answer to that whole 50 Shades question too.
Update: After writing this and realizing what a hypocrite I am, I scheduled to return to P.T.
Then I also watched that movie I just referenced. After I told everyone not to.