Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Obeying Pain

To goodness and wisdom we only make promises; pain we obey. - Marcel Proust

In my life until now, physical pain was something philosophical, something that happened to other people, the old, the infirm, the people in TV documentaries about disasters who cried on camera. Poor them, the poor dears, I would say, holding a tissue to my eyes while I watched, sympathetic to them, but removed from them by my radiant health. I flagrantly used action verbs: run, jump, gambol, dance, walk, skip. I used the word embodied to mean the joy I had in myself.

Now that sit is an action verb, and every movement has a consequence, "embodied" has a different meaning to me. Inside these misfiring nerve fibers I am trapped, I am embodied.

In his play No Exit Sartre famously wrote hell is other people, but I disagree, hell is yourself in your body in pain, the kind of pain that has no topography, it's a pure straight white line endlessly moving forward like an arrow. Without choice, you obey.


  1. So very sorry that pain has hunkered down in your body. And hope that you get blessed relief from it in some way.

  2. Hey, I'm genuinely sorry to hear this. Here's to a rapid recovery.

  3. Elizabeth, I am so sorry that this is happening to you. My sister has been battling with RA for 30 years and I know what a struggle it is for her. She does have many good days and I am thankful for that. I don't know what disease you are fighting but I do hope that there is some pain management available to you. In the meantime I would recommend that you concentrate on Monty Python rather than Marcel Proust for a bit of psychic relief!

  4. Smart man, that Proust. I'm so sorry you're having to go through this.

  5. I can't help but think, have you clicked on "the spoon theory." It's an excellent post on what it's like to live with a chronic condition.

    I think you'll understand. And agree.

  6. Wow, I just read the article suggested by The Empress and it is amazing. Sheds new light on my sister's day. Thank-you.

  7. When I was at Spaulding, I played a little game. It was called, "who is worst off?" Was it me, who could barely walk or speak, but had no pain? My roommate, who had surgery for a brain tumor? Someone else who has debilitating pain? The answer: they all suck.

    Maybe it sucks a little more if you have young kids. Or maybe not.

    Love, your sick cousin.