The Pain Game

As far as when it started, all I know for certain is that it was Sunday. This drives my doctor crazy.
“This week? Last week?”
“…yes. I think.”
Over the years pain has become something I’m well able to ignore to a certain point, and just go about my day, doing what I need to do as if nothing was different, like the way I’ve gotten so accustomed to the occasional siren or that sticky spot on my kitchen floor that never seems to be un-sticky for any given length of time. I think I’ve even become more tolerable of pain than dog hair – at least the pain usually reduces to a completely ignore-able level without me having to do anything about it.

Usually.

Though it occasionally pops up in other peripheral parts of my body, such as a deep bruise on my arm that leaves me wondering how it got there (usually blamed on playing with Ruby), it usually prefers to center in my legs and abdomen, and while the legs are nearly always just surface pain, over time I’ve become quite impressed with the seemingly endless areas & levels of pain that the abdomen has in its arsenal.
From the umbilical hernia, a steady sharp pain on the surface that occasionally has momentary flashes which reflexively cause me to drop what I’m doing to put pressure on it so I don’t come flying out of myself like one of those streamer-poppers, to the deeper, milder liver pain that has become as natural of a feeling as wearing socks. They’ve basically become old friends, and I can’t even imagine, after all this time, what it would be like *not* to have them. It’s like my body is a beautiful old beat-up car – a classic eyesore, dented, scratched & long-faded paint with an engine that takes some finesse to get going, but has it’s own personality & charm – even if it’s only in my eyes.

I think it was early evening Sunday when I began noticing that this pain was something different. It wasn’t really any single place in my abdomen – it was the entire damn thing, and it wouldn’t go away or be appeased, regardless of any attempts to do so. It was determined.

I tried to sit down, take my attention away from it by making maille, but all I could focus on was the pain – which seemed to realize that I was trying to ignore it, so like a spoiled only child, just started screaming louder. Going down the mental checklist of similar times I’ve felt this in the past, I decided it was gastrointestinal – something was just being stubborn inside of me, and only laying down – and time – could help it. By this time it was nearing around 11pm, so I decided to call it a day, crawl into bed & read myself to sleep, feeling certain that it would be gone in the morning. I remembered this happening on other rare occasions, and felt confident a good stretch of unconsciousness would make things right as rain, & I could continue with all the things I needed to do the next day.

Apparently, it wanted to stay up and play a game that seemed to be called “Sleep through THIS!” – which I’m guessing it probably got the idea from one of those strange & brutal Japanese game shows. It *definitely* wasn’t “Jeopardy!”, which I would have much preferred.

The morning brought the same pain, not increasing enough to cause alarm but not decreasing either, and though the pain was tolerable, the energy it took to not focus on it so I could do what I needed to do wasn’t. I fought through each hour, doing what I could but not being able to do what I most *needed* to do. Hanging on my wall, sitting on my desk, draped over displays are about 40 necklaces, bracelets, cuffs, pendants & earrings, sitting there, mocking my inability to gather the energy & enthusiasm to remind people about them, to sell them, to be able to afford the herbs that could prevent this pain from coming back.

The less energy I had the more morose I became, the less I was able to do the more downhearted. I had to do something to try to change this, to reverse the pessimistic energy that I felt growing thicker around me, the increasing feeling that this whole jewelry business was just another something that I failed in making work. Thought of all I *had* accomplished didn’t help; now was the only thing that mattered. The only thing that ever matters – and I felt like shit in that “now”.

It was early afternoon when I finally moved my laptop & book, holding my stomach as I got out of bed. Holding my arm around it didn’t help the pain, but it seemed like something that I was supposed to do, pretending that it comforted the alien that was *obviously* digging around in there, eating its way up to my chest.

Filling five plastic shopping bags about half way with dog food & putting them in a Trader Joe’s bag, Ruby & I slowly walked down to Civic Center, where I usually see the people with their homeless dogs. I tried to enjoy the walk – sunshine warming my face, a light cool breeze, Ruby bouncing back & forth like a Chinese ping-pong ball on the sidewalk trying her best not to leave any exotic stench unsniffed.
It *was* a truly beautiful day, and even through the pain I had moments I was able to enjoy it, but mostly I just wanted to help feed some hungry dogs & then crawl back into bed. I went straight down to where I usually see the homeless people with their dogs, and found… no one. A couple homeless people, no dogs. I kept walking.

We went through the Civic Center park, around the side I sometimes see others with their dogs sitting in the shade, then back down Larkin again, getting further & further from home & bed. A left on Market, looking, getting frustrated I contemplated just leaving the food somewhere they would hopefully find it – but at this point I realized that wouldn’t do. I needed to see their faces, to hopefully inspire a smile & maybe even a ‘thanks!’. I needed it for me as much as I wanted to do it for them.

About 5 extra blocks & 10 minutes later, I turned a corner & finally saw one girl who looked homeless enough, and she had a dog! She was walking away from me, about 30 yards ahead, but I wasn’t losing her. No fucking way. I hooked up Ruby to her leash so she would keep up, and as much as I could, gave “chase”. Walking as smoothly as I can to prevent any unnecessary jostling of my abdomen, I think the only thing that let me catch up to her were my longer legs and her lack of any apparent need to walk at anything more than a leisurely gate. And Ruby, who helped pull me along when she saw the girl’s dog.

“Hey!” She turns around. I’m trying to look like I just happened to notice her and realized I have a bunch of bags of dog food in my hand.
“yeah?”
“I have a bunch of dog food. You want it? It’s apparently good – she likes it!” I say as I glance down at Ruby, now engaged in trying to inhale the other dog through her nose.
“Really? Yeah, I *totally* need some dog food.”
“Yeah? Okay – it’s yours. Hope it helps.”
“It totally does, I really needed do food. Thanks!”
“No problem, happy to. Entirely my pleasure!”

She looks in the bag, looks up at me, and then it happens. A smile.
“Thanks man, thanks a lot!”
“No worries. I like being able to help when I can, especially dogs!”

With that we part ways, her standing there turning to talk to someone else & me, a small smile on my face but a HUGE one in my heart, start heading home.
I don’t know if it’s my imagination or real or if there is any difference in the two, but I think the pain may have diminished, just a tiny bit. Maybe there wasn’t enough room for it all with the happiness I felt.

“See Ruby, see how she smiled? Now she’s a little happier, her pup will be able to eat for a few days, and I am *really* happy. See how amazing that is? Ruby ignores me for a really interesting smelling mailbox, and we keep walking – back home, and back to bed.

Last night I noticed that the worst of the abdominal pain had finally left, but not without leaving me a souvenir. I’m only slowly recovering from the amount of energy it sucked from me, the weariness & fatigue still preventing the enthusiasm & hope needed to promote my jewelry, letting people know it’s still here, still for sale, and I would still love to sell it.

At least I had enough energy to start a couple pieces last night, as well as begin learning an incredibly beautiful & intricate new weave – called “Dragonscale”.

As much as I love making maille & will probably never entirely stop, it’s frustratingly difficult to maintain the enthusiasm to keep pushing & trying to encourage people to buy when nothing is selling. Only a part of it has to do with the money. Perhaps nearly equally important is the satisfaction I feel, the excitement clients show, the happiness these bring them.

It’s even almost tempting just to give it all away –
just so I could see the smiles.

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2 responses to “The Pain Game

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