Thursday, June 9, 2011

the varieties of painful experience

I'm always fascinated by the varieties of pain I experience. When I was 13 I tripped and fell while running at full speed playing soccer, landed poorly and broke my left arm--both bones, clean through. May you never see a 45-degree angle in the middle of your forearm.

All things considered, that's probably the most painful thing I've experienced. I remember being largely incapacitated, and unable to see: my vision was just sheets of red, a lot of the time. Then there was a shot of Demerol, and then more pain when the doctor set my arm. It got sort of silly, really. I didn't have any mental training at the time, and in any case there comes a point where pain can just be completely consuming your moment-to-moment experience, whether or not you're consciously attending to it.

Years later, I was crawling to the bathroom with cold sweats from something that is not this but does involve pinching some very sensitive nerves; I found the will to re-arrange everything myself, but the nerves were sore and twitchy for a couple of months afterward. Maybe a year after that my back got all scratched up on a coral reef, and that stung, but the aloe with tea tree oil we mixed up as a disinfectant? that hurt like the dickens.

There was my first concussion, working after my first year in college, and the fractured metatarsal from falling off my bike. Of course aikido has had a lot to offer, with a couple broken toes, a fractured ball of the foot, one or two mild concussions, jabs to the ribs, and one thundering punch that thankfully landed right in the thick bony part of the sternum, leaving me merely stunned and sore, rather than writhing on the floor trying to breathe.

(This all sounds very violent and hyper-masculine, but honestly, my older brother racked up worse injuries playing touch football and kayaking. The longest-healing injury I've had was some muscle tear or something from throwing a football.)

All of which brings us to my current toe experiences. The left toe has been bugging me, but last night during aikido I took a step and in the right toe it was like someone shoving a big splinter into the side of it. Which I assume is what was actually happening, because there's a bone spur on that one, too, so the "splinter" is just on the inside. This was one of those sharp pains that leaves an echo: twinges, mental fear that it will happen again, and a changing feeling of heat and cold on the skin above where it hurt.

This one is actually more bothersome than the soreness on the left, so I started eyeing my calendar for when I could get the right one done.

When you're setting up a new computer server with multiple hard drives, systems administrators check the serial numbers: if the numbers are too close, it means they're from the same manufacturing lot, and you send some back to the seller, because otherwise they'll fail around the same time.

I guess my warranty is starting to run out.


  1. Goodness. What would the recovery from bone-spur removal entail? I'm assuming since it's a bone injury that recovery would be about 6 weeks, but I'm no doctor. I hope all goes smoothly, but I know you'll be itching to get back to aikido after the surgery.

    I got a sinus fracture from softball, but the pain wasn't too terrible because my face went numb almost immediately. I remember my first reaction to the injury was fear that my face was gone since I couldn't feel it. Silly. I also broke my tuft bone (the tip of my right middle finger) playing softball, and that still hurts randomly from time to time. So, if you think your injuries aren't "hyper-masculine," they sure are compared to mine.

  2. It depends on where the spur is. My friends had nasty bone spurs around the ball joint of the foot, which limited their mobility before the surgery and increased the recovery time. Mine are relatively simple, on the sides of the big toes, so I think it would be closer to 3 months than 9. The left toe is 3 weeks on crutches instead of 1, because it involves removing an extra bone through an incision in the bottom of the toe.

  3. Actually, I forgot the stitches in my lip last year, the mild concussion when I took a fall and my temple met with someone's knee, and the extremely awesome time that someone else took a fall and the back of their heel landed squarely in the side of my quadricep, which wasn't excruciating but it stung to walk for a little while.

    Hmm, and the time I didn't get out of the way and got hit on the upper bridge of the nose...

    And yet, I'm in much better shape than when I started aikido 9 years ago. I's a long list, but so is the list of my dating experiences, which were a lot more painful, all told.