Saturday, November 08, 2008

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

The pain has returned, as have the painkillers. And so has despondency. Perhaps the worst thing about a period when the pain is moderate and endurable is that I tend to get overly optimistic, hoping that my jaw/face pain is on its way out for good. When it inevitably returns, my heart gets crushed like a bug under the shoe of a crazed ant-killing five-year-old, and when it goes on for days, I feel like tearing my hair out. Luckily, my head is shaved, lest I have huge patches of scalp circling my dome, nicely shaped head or not.

What to do...what to do. I become plagued by the question, and I start making a new checklist of things I've yet to try...that cutting-edge pain center, a chiropractor, meditation, etc.

As these things feel about as exciting to me as paying bills, I decided last night to take a stab at the psychological angle, as I know there are still some profound cracks in the cup of my consciousness I've yet to address, not because I haven't tried, but because confusion still reigns when I attempt to make sense of nagging obsessions and core beliefs about myself.

Dr. John Sarno at NYU has done groundbreaking research about the connection between back pain and rage (Howard Stern and ABC's John Stossel are two of his famous success stories), so I began to ask myself what I'm so damn angry at that I become literally crippled, both physically and emotionally, when this pain strikes.

I've certainly asked myself this before and have spent years in therapy trying to unravel the secrets of my soul, but I know I need to come at this from a different angle now, and in a way, I'm thankful that I'm working a 12-step program, as it's a different personal growth approach than what I've used before.

But the answers were still vague until I hit upon the idea of post traumatic stress disorder--a state where someone is in constant hypervigilence in order to avoid the recurrence of a harrowing event. While I know I've overcome a lot of this in most areas of my life, in the realm of romance I still keep my distance, still not understanding what love is all about, instead seeing the opposite sex in some kind of inhuman way.

In my mind's eye, I see any potential partner as a channel through which all my flaws and faults will be ridiculed instead of as a loving person who will accept and appreciate me as a whole package, warts and all.

Years ago, when I was 23, I had a very wise friend my age, Karen (who was also quite the babe), who once said, "We don't love someone in spite of his flaws. We love him because of them." We were at the Jersey shore at a rented apartment for the summer, and I remember the very place she stood in the kitchen when she uttered these unforgettable words.

I didn't understand what she meant at the time as I was enveloped in such personal turmoil and psychic pain, but I'm beginning to now. Perhaps if I can start to truly love myself, I can begin to let down my guard, but in the future with one who deserves and is worthy of such trust. I must take responsibility for my past bad choices, which only reinforced the fears I have as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Will a life filled with more love ease my pain? Will the excitement of possibility be a tonic for both body and soul? Obviously I can't answer that now, but I love the idea that someone would love me--and me, him--because of our flaws, instead of in spite of them.

Karen's husband is one lucky guy.


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