What replaces pain?

The steroid shot worked for awhile. Time for another one, on October 30. Just in time to pour boiling lead on the little peasants who come around for trick-or-treat.

The prospect is nothing apocalyptic this time. Show up an hour early, get a sedative shot, pass out, get the treatment, go home and pig out on Chinese food. And I can only hope it brings me a bit closer to living without pain. For however long the relief lasts.

I said pain brought out the worst in me, and that my disposition somewhat improved after the first treatment. That’s partially true. My character, defects and all, was in place long before neuropathy got to me in 2011. Regardless of the proclamations of AA and other self-help religious groups, people may have their rough edges worn down a bit by the Eternal Luthier. But they don’t really change all that much. We become just a bit more aware of the imperfections. Other people show them to us.

To me. There is no us here.

I’m what I always was. Racist, sexist, angry, misogynist, self-serving, impatient, captious, lustful, argumentative, unforgiving, temperamental, gullible, humorless, sarcastic. [Did I miss anything?] Am I proud of these glorious characteristics? No. Have the edges been smoothed down a bit? Yes. Will they ever be gone? Not likely.

How, then, to function? Not by walking the worst of myself. But, I hope, by recognizing those worst moments and trying to build away from them. Improvement, like shit, happens.

I would like to not hope. Without hope, there is no opening for disappointment. When you get nothing, you have (fortunately) not hoped for something.

This is some of the meaning of chronic illness, physical or mental. In my rational moments I am aware that these maladies will never “go away.” I will always have them and be subject and subjected to them. Yet hope persists. It would be easier to live on without it. At least you cannot lie to yourself. Lying occupies a great deal of space in any given day. But without the false promises we allow ourselves, without some degree of hope, there’s no point in going on at all. We wait for Godot. He peeks his head around the corner now and then wiggles his hands by his ears, goes Booga-booga! and is gone again. But we had that moment.

I remember Dr. Astrov, the depressed aspirant after hope in Uncle Vanya, musing to the suicidal Vanya about the only remaining form of hope:

It may be that posterity, which will despise us for our blind and stupid lives, will find some road to happiness; but we—you and I—have but one hope, the hope that we may be visited by visions, perhaps by pleasant ones, as we lie resting in our graves.

I always knew I had a tragicomic Russian disposition. That’s most of why I love this play so much. In my acting days in college I always hoped we’d produce Uncle Vanya. I’d love to have played either Vanya or Astrov. It would have been something like fun to engage in drama therapy.

But would you want Dr. Astrov to operate on you?


About Ken Wolman

Sit still, shut up, and listen. We might both learn something.
This entry was posted in dis-ease, disease, poetry, suffering, uncertainty. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What replaces pain?

  1. When you turn your sharp eye on yourself, you reveal a great deal about the human condition. Much to reflect on here.

    Wishing you not only hope but its fulfillment.


  2. kenwolman says:

    If I put forth stuff about a human condition, truly it’s incidental. It’s fulfilling to know that people indeed identify.


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