A Body in Pain and an Enlightened Mind

by perpetualflaneur

Two weeks ago, I went through one of the worst forms of pain my body has endured and one unlike any other I’ve had. I think I had one of those eureka moments when some people say ‘pain reminds you that you are alive’ which has a masochistic tone to it but a valid claim to begin with or one of those philosophical thoughts when they argue that ‘one becomes conscious of a limb or any body part when it is in pain.’

It all started when I woke up to the burning and consistent aching of my upper abdomen, something that had happened to me before. What made this more painful than the other ones I’ve had is that it had brought me to the one place that I am never a fan of–the hospital and its welcoming emergency room. My distaste with the hospital has grown through the years not just because I dislike its smell, feel, and overall ambience but mainly because being there tells me that something is wrong with my body, which appeared to be spot on at that time. So, after grueling hours of pain,waiting, tests, and some more waiting, my doctor finally diagnosed me with acute appendicitis, thus, an appendectomy that lasted for an hour and thirty minutes and a recovery time of four to six weeks.

While this may not be the worst of all possible cases that I could have had and could have gone through, I treat this entire experience as something of an enlightenment. In the succeeding days of my surgery, I found my vibrant and active self to be limited by my injured and still aching abdomen. It felt as if each piercing throb and burning pain that I felt inside was a connivance to heighten my senses, a rebellion against its owner; it was my body’s way of communicating with me that I have reached a temporary stop where it is necessary for me to reflect on what I am and on what I can and cannot do.

It made me think about how I take advantage of my body and particularly the daily movements and routines that I do with it: how I can easily wake up and rise from bed within a minute or two without anyone’s help, how I can walk graciously and quickly run miles and be from one place to another without the sharp pangs from my abdomen, how I can dress myself with ease and carelessly change clothes without calculating every movement so I won’t agitate a healing wound, how I can shower anytime I want and stay there for hours without thinking about the gauze that must be kept dry, how I can eat and drink anything that I crave for without restrictions and complications, and how I can sit on my chair or throw my body around the sofa without thinking about the proper posture and particular position to avoid irritating my surgical wound.

So, what is the moral of my story? What is the underlying message that prompted me to write this in the first place? Two important things stood out to me the most. First is the very thought of how in an instant by some accident or ailment of the body, I can no longer do what I am used to, those activities that I consider to be basic and mundane. It is unimaginable to be unable to perform these activities permanently, bringing my thoughts to those who are currently suffering a multitude of conditions that prohibit them from enjoying and participating in activities that I’ve taken for granted. I can only think of how it is for them, but I’ll actually never know. Second is the consciousness that I am literally an entire body. Though I have a conscience, emotions, freewill, and intellect, there is an entire system within me. In all actuality, I am an entire system composed of tissues and organs that function and that can malfunction depending on how I treat it.

When my wound heals and this entire experience is eclipsed by newer memories, the scar on my lower right abdomen will remain. As I look at it and as I trace its contours with my fingers, I will always be reminded to be appreciative of my capacity to perform any activity, and while in that moment of reflection, I will remember that I am not just in possession of a body, that I am also a body.